Tag Archives: Syria

A Plethora of Refugees in Europe


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj.

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Europe has a population of 740 million of which 500 million are in the European Union (EU). According to the European Union border agency the plethora of refugees entering Europe had increased over the past 10 months. More than 150,000 refugees entered the EU in August 2015 increasing the total influx of refugees to more than half a million for the year 2015.

Although this amount of refugees is not large enough to construe it as an invasion or being over-run when compared to the population of Europe, the European leaders were slow to respond. Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU migration commissioner has called it “the worst refugee crisis facing Europe since World War II.

 

Europes refugee crisis (Source: uk.businessinsider.com)
Europes refugee crisis (Source: uk.businessinsider.com)

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For many refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war and the abominable ISIS, the Greek islands have been the gateway to enter the European Union.  This year alone, more than 259,000 refugees entered Greece by boat via Turkey. The arrival of about 88,000 refugees in the Greek islands in August 2015 was the largest so far, an eleven-fold increase compared to the same month a year ago.  Almost 75% percent of the refugees seeking asylum were Syrians.

The Schengen Area

Six founding members: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany created the European Economic Community (EEC) by the Treaty of Rome in 1957. This regional organization aimed to bring about economic integration between its member states, including a common market and customs union.

When the ten member states of the then EEC were not able to reach a consensus on the abolition of border controls, five of its members signed The Schengen Agreement on June 14, 1985, paving the way to the creation of Europe’s borderless Schengen Area. The treaty signed near the town of Schengen in Luxembourg was not implemented in full until 1995.

The Schengen Agreement proposed the gradual abolition of border checks and allow vehicles to cross the common borders of the signatories of the treaty without stopping. It permitted residents in the border areas to cross the borders away from fixed checkpoints.

In 1990, the Schengen Convention supplemented the Schengen Agreement by proposing the abolition of internal border controls and a common visa policy. For most purposes, the Schengen Area with a common visa policy functions as a single country for international travel purposes. The Schengen Agreement and the rules adopted under it were quite separate from the EU structures.

Map of Schengen Area (Source: wikipedia.org)
Map of Schengen Area (Source: wikipedia.org)

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The Schengen Area now comprises 26 European countries. These member states have strengthened their external border controls with non-Schengen states. Out of the current 28 European Union member states, 22 are participants in the Schengen Area.

Countries comprising The Schengen Area
State Area (km²) Population
Austria 83,871 8,414,638
Belgium 30,528 11,007,020
Czech Republic 78,866 10,535,811
Denmark (excluding Greenland
and the Faroe Islands)
43,094 5,564,219
Estonia 45,338 1,340,194
Finland (Including Åland Islands) 338,145 5,391,700
France (mainland and Corsica only) 551,695 63,929,000
Germany 357,050 81,799,600
Greece 131,990 10,815,197
Hungary 93,030 9,979,000
Iceland 103,000 318,452
Italy 301,318 60,681,514
Latvia 64,589 2,245,357
Liechtenstein 160 36,010
Lithuania 65,300 3,207,060
Luxembourg 2,586 511,840
Malta 316 417,608
Netherlands (excluding Aruba,
Curaçao,  Sint Maarten
and the Caribbean Netherlands)

41,526

16,703,700

Norway (excluding Svalbard) 385,155 5,063,709
Poland 312,683 38,186,860
Portugal (Including Madeira and Azores) 92,391 10,647,763
Slovakia 49,037 5,440,078
Slovenia 20,273 2,048,951
Spain (with special provisions for
Ceuta and Melilla)
506,030 46,030,109
Sweden 449,964 9,415,570
 Switzerland 41,285 7,866,500
Schengen Area 4,189,111 417,597,460

Source: en.wikipedia.org

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Currently, the Schengen Area has an area of 1,617,4245 square miles (4,189,111 square kilometers) and a population of over 400 million people.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania are four of the six EU members that do not form part of the Schengen Area, are legally obliged and wish to join the Area. The other two, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, maintain opt-outs.

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland have signed the Schengen Agreement even though they are member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and are not in the EU.

The three European microstates, the Vatican, Monaco, and San Marino do not have border controls with the Schengen countries that surround them. Though considered as de facto within the Schengen Area they have not officially signed documents that make them part of the Schengen Area.

The influx of refugees

 

Since many Eastern European countries are guarding their borders in the face of the influx of refugees, the distribution of refugees among the 28-member EU is somewhat skewed. According to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), EU countries received more than 437,000 asylum applications from January 2015 to July 2015. Germany received the most applications, followed by Hungary, Sweden, Italy and France.

The migrants from African countries enter the EU through Italy and Spain. Many of those who enter Italy apply for asylum on landing there. Some try to cross into France.

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A group of migrants gathering near a line of trucks on the motorway that leads to the Channel Tunnel terminal in Calais, northern France. (Source: uk.businessinsider.com)
A group of migrants gathering near a line of trucks on the motorway that leads to the Channel Tunnel terminal in Calais, northern France. (Source: uk.businessinsider.com)

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From France, a few try to enter the United Kingdom by perilous means such as getting smuggled in containers through the Eurotunnel from Calais, northern France.

Many Syrians try to reach Italy from Greece while others head to Austria via Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia.

Most refugees try to reach the Schengen Area. From there, they move into Hungary through Macedonia and Serbia. Also, some refugees from Turkey reach Hungary via Bulgaria and Romania. The popular route to enter the Schengen zone is through Norway, by way of Russia and Lebanon.

From Hungary, most refugees continue their journey to richer countries such as Germany and Sweden that have liberal immigration policies.

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And, They Call Themselves Muslims…


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Click this line or the  image below to view the video

Kuwaiti Official, Fahad Al Shalami
Kuwaiti Official, Fahad Al Shalami

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Yes. They call themselves Muslims, adherents of Islam wherein religious concepts and practices that include the Five Pillars of Islam, the five basic concepts and acts of worship – the foundation of Muslim life – are obligatory!

The Five Pillars of Islam are:

Shahada: Faith
Salat: Prayer
Zakāt: Alms-giving
Sawm: Fasting
Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca

The third Pillar “Zakāt” or alms-giving is the practice of charitable giving based on accumulated wealth.

The word zakāt can be defined as purification and growth because it allows an individual to achieve balance and encourages new growth. The principle of knowing that all things belong to God is essential to purification and growth.

Zakāt is obligatory for all Muslims who are able to do so. It is the personal responsibility of each Muslim to ease the economic hardship of others and to strive towards eliminating inequality.

Zakāt consists of spending a portion of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy, like debtors or travelers.

A Muslim may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah), rather than to achieve additional divine reward.

Click this line or the image below to view the video

Building golden mosques but zero in humanity

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Photo of the ‘Syrian Boy’ Sleeping Between the Graves of His Parents


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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A little boy from Syria sleeping between the graves of his parents. (Photo by abdulaziz_099)
A little boy from Syria sleeping between the graves of his parents. (Photo by abdulaziz_099)

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If you regularly visit your social media pages, you would have certainly come across this photo of the little Syrian boy covered by a blanket purportedly sleeping between the graves of his parents.

This heartrending image is a fake and is not related to the current happenings in Syria. However, the image went viral on the net because many people appropriated it on social networks to reflect the tragic situation in Syria without knowing it was a fake that originated not from Syria, but from Saudi Arabia.

One source claims  it has been viewed over a million times on Imgur. It evoked lots of sympathy. Here are some comments I came across on Reddit:

  • I think the part that got me right in the heart is the fact that he looks peaceful and happy. Like nothings wrong. God damn it, I just made it worse.
  • He must have already seen some horrible things, and it seems he is now in peace, sleeping next to his mommy and daddy. Even if they aren’t alive anymore, they are still his source of comfort. This is sad on so many levels.
  • The more you think about it the deeper it goes until you’re looking down at the planet saying, wtf!
  • ****. Why’d you have to call them “mommy” and “daddy” that just makes it too real.
  • It’ll be a whole different world when he wakes.
  • This is actually the saddest picture I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen a lot of fucking morbid, disgusting, blood-soaked pictures and I’ve never batted an eye since I’m so desensitized to it, but I can barely hold in tears as I look at this one. What that kid has experienced is the epitome of non-physical human suffering. His parents aren’t coming back, man.
  • In the Middle East death is not something we’re not used to, unfortunately. Most simply embrace it due to how difficult life is.
  • I didn’t see peaceful and happy, I see a kid who doesn’t know what to do. His world is gone. I’m 40 and can’t stand the thought of losing my parents, and when they go I’ll be crushed. 8-ish years old? Jesus.

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Photographer Abdul Aziz
Photographer Abdul Aziz al-Otaibi

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Blogger Harald Doornbos claims he unearthed the truth behind the photograph by interviewing the photographer Abdul Aziz Al-Otaibi, a 25-year-old Saudi national and published it on his blog

According to Harald Doornbos, Abdul Aziz lives in Yanbu al Bahr, a major Red Sea port in the Al Madinah province of western Saudi Arabia, about 250 kilometers northwest of Jeddah.

Abdul Aziz is a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah, Georgia in USA. His major is Photography. As a keen photographer brimming with ideas, Abdul Aziz as a project wanted to depict the irreplaceable love of a child for his parents, even  if they are dead. So, three weeks ago, he drove to the outskirts of Yanbu with his nephew. There after piling stones to resemble two graves, he bade his nephew lie between two ‘graves’ and covered him with a blanket.

Abdul Aziz  Al-Otaibi has the following social media accounts:

He posted the photograph on Facebook. He made it very clear on Facebook that the graves were not real. He even published pictures of his smiling nephew seated next to the graves. Abdul Aziz told Harald Doornbos: “I also published the backstage story. I just wanted to be sure that people drew no wrong conclusions.

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Screenshot of Facebook page -abdulaziz_099
Screenshot of Facebook page -abdulaziz_099

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Though Abdul Aziz published this creation as an art work, an American Muslim convert posted the picture on his twitter account @americanbadu, that has over 187,000 followers. He claimed the picture was from Syria and suggested that the Assad-regime killed the parents of the sleeping boy.

The image spreads like wildfire. Hundreds of accounts, especially in jihad circles re-tweeted the picture from @americanbadu. An Islamic NGO from Kuwait, @Yathalema, with 175,000 followers tweeted the image. 

Even the Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Jarba failed to verify the authenticity of the image and tweeted it on Friday, January 17, 2014. He too did not fail to accuse Assad on wretched fate of the boy in the  picture. Here is the image of Jarba’s tweet:

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Source: blog.foreignpolicy.com
Source: blog.foreignpolicy.com

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Jarba deleted the photo of the boy beside the graves about 30 minutes after posting it.

Harald Doornbos says: “By now the picture goes viral. Nobody checks if the image was indeed from Syria. I was the first reporter who called Al-Otaibi to ask.

In the meantime, photographer Abdul Aziz Al-Otaibi complained via Direct Message (DM) to @americanbadu: “Why did you take my picture and claim it as an image from Syria? Please correct it.

@americanbadu replied via DM: “Why don’t you just let go and claim it is a picture from Syria and gain a reward from God. You are exaggerating.”

Shortly after, @americanbadu removed his tweet. Nevertheless, the  irreversible damage was already done.

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