Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

European Union

European policies on refugees and asylum seekers are increasingly restrictive. Borders are effectively being pushed off-shore, extending the problems of border management as far south as possible. Aurélie Ponthieu explains the effects of these measures, including crowded refugee centers on the Italian and Greek borders, deplorable conditions in Libyan detention centers and fewer rescues at sea. Ponthieu, the coordinator of the Forced Migration Team in the analysis department of Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), Belgium, was interviewed by Nabil Al-Tikriti.

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We Can—and Should—Do More to Help Syrian Refugees

Chris Toensing 09.16.2015

Imagine that 58 million Americans were streaming into Canada and Mexico, many with only a small satchel and the clothes on their backs. Picture another 102 million residents of the Eastern seaboard seeking refuge with relatives in the Midwest and West.

That terrifying mental exercise gives a sense of the sheer, staggering scale of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Half of Syria’s pre-war population of 22 million has been uprooted since the country’s horrendous civil war broke out in late 2011. Over 4 million people have escaped to neighboring countries and beyond, while an additional 7 million or so are displaced within the country.

Crushing Repression of Eritrea’s Citizens Is Driving Them Into Migrant Boats

Dan Connell 04.20.2015

Abinet spent six years completing her national service in one of Eritrea’s ministries, but when she joined a banned Pentecostal church, she was arrested, interrogated, threatened, released and then shadowed in a clumsy attempt to identify other congregants. She arranged to be smuggled out of the country in 2013 and is now in a graduate program in human rights in Oslo.

Like Abinet, hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers are landing on the shores of Italy. Eritreans are second only to Syrians in the number of boat arrivals, though the country is a fraction of Syria’s size and there’s no live civil war there.

From Sinai to Lampedusa: An Eritrean Journey

Dan Connell 01.19.2015

Two human tragedies will forever scar Eritreans’ memories of the past decade, during which hundreds of thousands fled repression and despair in their homeland to seek sanctuary in more open, democratic societies: the brutal kidnapping, torture and ransom of refugees in the Egyptian Sinai and the drowning of hundreds more in the Mediterranean Sea when their criminally unseaworthy and overcrowded boats went down, a running disaster epitomized by the October 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck.

Lampedusa

More than 52,000 would-be migrants have landed on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in 2011. Roughly half of the arrivals are young Tunisian men looking for job opportunities in Europe. Most of the others are Sahelians, sub-Saharan Africans or South Asians fleeing the violence in Libya. In many cases, they were forced onto boats by Libyan soldiers, as part of the “invasion” Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi promised should his rule come under NATO attack. [1] The staggering number of arrivals does not include the estimated 1,500 who starved, suffocated or drowned in the central Mediterranean trying to reach Europe’s nearest shore.

Turkey, Cyprus and the European Division

Rebecca Bryant 02.25.2007

More than years after the opening of the ceasefire line that divides Cyprus, the island is closer than ever to rupture. When the Green Line first opened in April 2003, there was an initial period of euphoria, as Cypriots flooded in both directions to visit homes and neighbors left unwillingly behind almost three decades before. But a year later, when a UN plan to reunite the island came to referendum, new divisions emerged. While Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the plan, their Greek Cypriot compatriots rejected it in overwhelming numbers.

Grinding Palestine To Powder

Lori Allen 10.18.2006

Secretary Rice’s recent Middle East tour concluded without any discussion of peace between Israel and Palestine. Unity talks between Fatah and Hamas have hit a standstill. In other words, the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian political compromise appears bleaker than ever. Meanwhile, US and European governments reiterate their demands of the Palestinian Authority after Hamas’ electoral victory in March: recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace accords. While Hamas has repeatedly offered Israel a long-term truce, they have not announced their recognition of the Jewish state.

Storming the Fences

"’Black locusts’ are taking over Morocco!" So ran the September 12, 2005 headline of al-Shamal, an Arabic-language Tangier newspaper, describing the forays of masses of in-transit sub-Saharan Africans trying to scale the security fences separating Morocco from the Spanish-ruled enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Moroccan authorities immediately banned al-Shamal for employing this racist language, but the press on both sides of the Mediterranean continued to use terms like “massive invasion” and “plague” to denote the sub-Saharan migrants’ repeated attempts in September and early October to escape from Africa into the territory of the European Union.

Return of the Turkish “State of Exception”

Kerem Öktem 06.3.2006

Diyarbakır, the political and cultural center of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern provinces, displays its beauty in springtime. The surrounding plains and mountains, dusty and barren during the summer months, shine in shades of green and the rainbow colors of alpine flowers and herbs. Around the walls of the old city, parks bustle with schoolchildren, unemployed young men and refugees who were uprooted from their villages during the Kurdish insurgency in the 1990s.

Urban Violence in France

Dorénavant la rue ne pardonne plus                                              From now on the street will not forgive
Nous n’avons rien à perdre car nous n’avons jamais rien eu            We have nothing to lose for we have nothing

The Ceasefire This Time

Evren Balta 08.31.2005

“The aim of the Turkish armed forces is to ensure that the separatist terrorist organization bows down to the law and the mercy of the nation.” Thus did the Turkish chief of staff, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, brusquely dismiss the one-month ceasefire announced on August 19, 2005 by the Kurdistan People’s Congress (or Kongra-Gel). Kongra-Gel is the name adopted in 2003 by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which had renewed its armed struggle with the Turkish state just over one year before proclaiming its latest truce.

Europe, the US and the Strategic Triangle

Oil is by its very nature a finite commodity. The question has always been not whether it would run out, but when it would. The doomsday scenarios that some predict –mass blackouts and the imminent demise of suburbia — may be far-fetched, but the era of “peak oil” is here.

Reluctant Partners

Turkey passed a milestone in its long and arduous journey toward acceptance into the exclusive club of the European Union when the EU gave Turkey a date for the start of accession talks. But major obstacles remain — chiefly resurgent anti-Muslim feeling in Europe and resurgent ethnic nationalism in Turkey.

The Republic’s “Second Religion”

The 2004 law banning "conspicuous" religious symbols (read, headscarves) in French public schools cast France as an intolerant and radically secular state hostile to the manifestation of difference, especially Muslim difference, in the public sphere. During debates about the new law, a clear distinction was drawn between French republicanism and an "Anglo-Saxon" multiculturalism decried by many French as a sure path to national disintegration. President Jacques Chirac even declared that France "would lose her soul" if she went the way of an Anglo-American pluralism that recognizes and accepts internal difference.

Lions of Tawhid in the Polder

The murder of the controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a radical Islamist youth induced a deep national trauma in the Netherlands. Very quickly, debate about the murder and the subsequent outbreak of anti-Muslim violence led to a larger and disturbing debate about the place of Muslims and Islam in the traditionally tolerant country — and the meaning of tolerance itself.

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