Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Denmark becomes the first European nation to tell Syrian refugees they must return home, saying the country is now safe

The Scandinavian nation has stripped 94 Syrian refugees of their residency permits after it determined Damascus and the surrounding area as being safe.

Migrants will be sent to deportation camps, but will not be forced to leave. But rights groups say the government is trying to give migrants no other option than to return to Syria on their own accord.

Mattias Tesfaye, Denmark's immigration minister, said last month that the country had been 'open and honest from the start' with refugees coming from Syria.

'We have made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary. It can be withdrawn if protection is no longer needed,' he said, according to The Daily Telegraph.

His comments came as Denmark extended the parts on Syria considered safe for people to return, to include the southern Rif Dimashq Governorate.

'We must give people protection for as long as it is needed. But when conditions in the home country improve, a former refugee should return home and re-establish a life there,' he said.

Denmark's ruling centre-Left Social Democratic Party has taken a fierce anti-immigration stance in an effort to fend off challenges from parties on the Right.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has promised to target 'zero' asylum seekers applying for residence in the country.

While Germany had previously ruled that criminals can be deported to Syria, Denmark is the first country in Europe to say refugees can be returned.

The decision made by Denmark on the Rif Dimashq Governorate now means that a further 350 Syrian residents in the country will have their temporary protection permits reassessed.

This is on top of the roughly 900 refugees from Damascus who had their cases reopened last year.

By mid-January, The Telegraph reports that 94 Syrians from the Damascus area living in Denmark had seen their permits revoked.

This came after a December 2019 ruling by Denmark's Refugee Appeals Board that the conditions in Damascus were no longer sufficiently dangerous to give grounds for temporary protection, without any additional personal reason to give asylum.

But human rights groups have spoken out against Denmark's move to send people back to war-torn Syria.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Refugee and Migrant Rights Director at Amnesty International UK, told the MailOnline: 'That the Danish government is seeking to force people back into the hands of this brutal regime is an appalling affront to refugee law and people's right to be safe from persecution.

'This reckless violation of Denmark's duty to provide asylum also risks increasing incentives for other countries to abandon their own obligations to Syrian refugees.

'Not only will this put the lives of even more women, men and children at risk. It will add to reasons that cause people to travel ever further afield in search of safety and security for themselves and their family.'

Michala Bendixen, from the rights group Refugees Welcome, said that Syrian refugees in Syria now faced a 'very, very tragic situation', and would be forced from their homes, jobs and studies and into Denmark's deportation camps.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Bendixen said the refugees face years of limbo, and while they will not be forced onto planes, she said Denmark is hoping that the refugees will have no other option other than to return to Syria.

'The government hopes that they will go voluntarily, that they will just give up and go on their own,' she told the newspaper.

Normally, refugees who do not leave Denmark voluntarily or if the country has no repatriation arrangement in place with their home country are accommodated at 'departure centres'.

This is the case for Syrian refugees in Denmark because the country does not cooperate with the Assad regime.

But Denmark's opposition Liberal party, a Right-wing organisation, called for the returns to be accelerated through an agreement with the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's authoritarian ruler.

'I can imagine an agreement that will only extend to the framework for sending people back, with some guarantees that you can return without being persecuted,' Mads Fuglede, the foreign spokesperson for the opposition Liberal Party, told Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

This, he said, would prevent Syrians from being stranded in deportation camps.

'If Denmark doesn't think that can be done, we should push for dialogue with the Assad regime at EU level,' Fuglede added.

However, he later took to Facebook to say that his proposed deal in no way suggested recognising the 'criminal dictatorship' of Assad.

'I want to stress that the Liberal party does not think Denmark should recognise the Assad regime,' he wrote, adding that the regime is a 'criminal dictatorship which we in no way wish to rubber-stamp'.

'But we should discuss what to do with all the Syrian refugees in Europe as Syria has become safer around Damascus, and how they can safely return to their country,' he explained.

'But it is clear that if this can only be done by recognising Assad, then it can't be done. Then we'll have to find other options.'

Denmark's ruling centre-Left Social Democratic Party has already rejected the prospect of discussing a repriatration agreement with Assad's regime.

'It would send the completely wrong signal that we consider Assad to be the victor in Syria,' the party's immigration spokesman Rasmus Stoklund told Jyllands-Posten.

Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod has also said the government does not support the proposal.

'It is completely wrong to cooperate with one of history's worst dictators… just to look tough (on immigration). These are people we're talking about,' Social Liberal spokesperson for immigration Andreas Steenberg tweeted.

Denmark is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prevents asylum seekers from being deported if they risk torture or persecution in their home countries.

The Syrian civil war, which began on March 15, 2011 as part of the wider 2011 Arab Spring protests and involved a number of different factions including Assad's Syrian Arab Republic, Hezbollah, ISIS and the U.S.-supported the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, displaced millions of Syrians.

Pre-war, the population of the Syrian Arab Republic was estimated at 22 million, with the UN identifying 13.5 million of that number as displaced persons, requiring humanitarian assistance.

The war, along with conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa - among others - contributed to the European Migrant Crisis said to have begun in 2014, which saw millions of migrants flee into Europe.

The majority - 46.7 percent - are believed to have been Syrian.

On Monday, the United Nations investigators said that thousands of civilians had been subjected to 'unimaginable suffering' including torture, sexual violence and death in detention during a decade of conflict in Syria.

The report said that men, women, boys and girls detained by government or pro-government forces had been subjected to inhuman treatment and torture, including rape.

'At least 20 different horrific methods of torture used by the government of Syria have been extensively documented,' the report said.

'These include administering electric shocks, the burning of body parts, pulling off nails and teeth, mock executions, folding detainees into a car tyre and crucifying or suspending individuals from one or two limbs for prolonged periods, often in combination with severe beating.'

Tens of thousands of civilians who were detained are unaccounted for, with no trace of their whereabouts, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria found.

The three-member panel's report was based upon more than 2,500 interviews conducted over 10 years and investigations into more than 100 detention facilities.

It found that almost every major party that has controlled territory in Syria since 2011 has committed detention-related violations and abuses.

'Hundreds of thousands of family members have a right to the truth about their loved ones' fate,' said commission chair Paulo Pinheiro.

'This is a national trauma that needs to be urgently addressed by action from the parties and the international community.'

The report stressed that detainees continued to be mistreated in notorious detention facilities even as the conflict approached its 11th year.

'These detainees have endured unimaginable suffering,' the commission said.

'This has been happening with the knowledge and acquiescence of the governments who have supported the different parties to the conflict.

'The fate of tens of thousands of civilians who were forcibly disappeared by Syrian government forces, many nearly a decade ago, remains unknown. Many are presumed to have died or been executed.'

Commissioner Karen Koning AbuZayd said parties to the conflict had, with few exceptions, failed to investigate their own forces, with the focus seemingly on concealing rather than probing crimes committed in detention facilities.

The authors called for all parties in the conflict to stop violations, immediately release certain categories of detainee and allow independent monitoring of detention facilities.


SCOTUS Reiterates Its Open-Door Policy on Churches

It’s a battle, Pastor Mike McClure said, that he “never wanted to be in.” But it’s a battle that God called him to fight — and he knows it. Keeping his church open hasn’t been easy, but then being obedient in the face of controversy usually isn’t. Still, Pastor Mike pointed out, it’s amazing when you do what’s right how “the Lord just shows up.” And late Friday, He wasn’t the only one. The Supreme Court decided to weigh in too — and the Christians of Santa Clara County couldn’t be happier.

It’s been more than three weeks since the Supreme Court ripped up Governor Gavin Newsom’s (D-Calif.) worship ban. And even then, some liberal officials wouldn’t comply. Santa Clara County decided that “indoor gatherings of all kinds remain very risky” and took it upon themselves to keep the churches closed despite what the justices had ordered. If people wanted to visit their churches to pray or take confession, that was one thing — but actual worship services, the county argued, would have to wait.

Fortunately, that all changed this weekend, when six Supreme Court justices directed the last remaining holdout to fall in line. After the ruling in February, the attorneys at Pacific Justice Institute had argued, every house of worship from the Mexican border to Oregon were open at 25 percent capacity — except for Santa Clara County. There, they sit “as an island of tyranny with zero capacity for indoor worship services.” How is that fair, the churches asked? It isn’t, Justices John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and rookie Amy Coney Barrett agreed. In their short, unsigned order, they granted the pastors’ requests and pointed out, not so subtly, that the issue should have already been settled. “This outcome is clearly dictated by this court’s decision in the South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom,” they wrote.

Local pastors celebrated. “My clients — the churches — are grateful to be able to open their doors again this Sunday after having been locked for most of the last 12 months,” the Institute’s Kevin Snider said with relief. “The Supreme Court has once again held that the right to freely exercise ones religion cannot be suppressed by government officials that care to stamp out religion during a pandemic,” FRC’s Legal Research Fellow Katherine Beck Johnson cheered.

At least for now, Pastor McClure and others in the county have seen their courageous stand pay off. As hard as things have been, Mike explained on last week’s “Pray, Vote, Stand,” by choosing to stay open and fight for others to do the same, he’s had the best opportunity ever to share the gospel. “Many people have been coming to Christ… We’ve even had some great conversations with the prosecuting attorneys,” he said. “We’ve just seen [God] at work in the midst of all that’s going on…”

Even in the midst of the churches’ persecution and millions of dollars in fines, he’s watched people’s lives undergo a miraculous transformation. He told the story of a county official, heading up suicide prevention, who was so depressed and discouraged that he was considering suicide. He wandered into Calvary Chapel San Jose one Sunday and not only received Christ — but brought another friend the following Sunday who became a Christian too! “He was actually a part of our court brief saying that this is the best thing that ever happened in his life. And so as much as the church is being [oppressed] this is exactly where God wants us to be — defining His love for a hopeless culture.”

“I just think everywhere we go, when we open the doors, I see people blessed every week. And I told [the court], ‘I can’t think of one person who’s died coming to church, but I can fill this courtroom 10 times over with personal testimonies of people who said they would be in a desperate place [without it]. The fruit of that, the blessing God has brought is evidence of that. Every pastor who’s opened up can… testify of these exact same things. So, I’m telling you: God’s at work — and… if you open your church like we have, you will see it.”


Asians are doing well? Let’s re-label them as white!

So, the woke folk finally figured out how to handle the success of those pesky Asians – just re-label them as white!

In my most recent piece for spiked, I pointed out a very significant problem for those arguing that constant and systemic – rather than sporadic and individual – racism is prevalent throughout modern US society: most of the most highly successful groups in the US are not white. Seven of the top 10 highest-earning American population groups – Indian, Taiwanese, Filipino, Indonesian, Pakistani, Iranian / Persian, and Arab Lebanese Americans – are not of European extraction, and another top 10 group (South Africans) is made up of both blacks and whites.

Even outside the top 10, East Asians in particular do very well in the United States, with Chinese ($85,424), Japanese ($85,007), Korean ($76,674), Hmong ($73,373), Vietnamese ($72,161), Cambodian ($72,038), Thai ($66,763) and Laotian Yanks all coming in ahead of the median white household income of $65,902.

Many such immigrant groups dominate academically as well as economically, with not only Asians but also Nigerians and other West Africans racking up honours across secondary and higher education.

A sizable Washington state school district recently figured out one way to minimise at least the Asian data just given. In its latest ‘equity report’, administrators working for North Thurston Public Schools, an urban district of almost 16,000 students serving much of Olympia (WA) and the Nesqually Indian reservation, simply grouped all Asian students in with whites and compared their academic results with those for ‘students of colour’.

This second category included not only blacks, but also all Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Native American and mixed-race students. As it happens, the gap between ‘whites and Asians’ and students ‘of colour’, in middle-class Washington, was fairly small and had apparently been shrinking over time: it likely would have been narrow or non-existent had Asians not been summarily made white. This positive finding, however, was disallowed by definition.

The North Thurston district’s decision does not seem to have been some one-off aberration. A simple Google search for ‘Asians not POC’ turns up 3,590,000 results, including not merely Reason, Asian Weekly and My Northwest articles on the NTPS case but also multiple unrelated articles with titles like ‘Are Asians Even People of Colour?’. In a serious piece for the Vermont Connection, Janelle Raymundo essentially answers that question ‘Yes’, but also notes that Asians are often stereotyped as not being ‘POC’ because of the ‘model minority myth’ and that issues such as Harvard’s recent affirmative-action battles illustrate separation between Asians and other minority groups ‘in society and higher education’. In a separate Atlantic article discussing ‘the whitening of Asian Americans’, author Iris Kuo points out in her header that recent reverse discrimination suits have ‘aligned the interests of whites and Asian Americans’, at the very least ‘raising complex questions about identity and privilege’.

Highly successful black immigrants – Ghanaians make roughly $5,000 per year more than whites and nearly $26,000 more than African Americans, at the household level – are now facing some of the same questions about racial authenticity. An in-depth 2018 piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer detailed the firestorm that erupted in 2018, after accomplished Nigerian actress Cynthia Erivo was selected to play the role of Harriet Tubman in a flattering biopic. Furious social-media users demanded that an ‘actual’ black American actress be hired for the part, and pointed out that Erivo had previously mocked alleged black American mannerisms, like a ‘ghetto… accent’.

An actual petition to remove Erivo circulated online and garnered well over 1,000 signatures – presumably mostly or entirely from black people living in America. Inquirer author Valerie Russ tied such behaviour to a deeper ‘diaspora war’, noting that many American blacks see African and West Indian immigrants as ‘respected more than black Americans’ while simultaneously benefitting from ‘reparations meant to right [the] evils of America’s past’. Such conflicts have consequences: a major 2013 law review article by Cedric Gordon argues that black immigrants should quite probably not receive affirmative-action benefits at all, thus being treated essentially as white for the purpose of college admissions.

Discomfort with the reality of minority immigrant success can sometimes extend to bizarre extremes. Over the past decade, the New York Times, Gray Lady of American journalism, has run literally dozens of articles describing the paucity of black students at NYC’s few truly selective schools. A typical example of this genre, from 2019, was headlined ‘Only Seven Black Students Got Into Stuyvesant… Out of 895 Spots’. The author, Eliza Shapiro, skillfully discusses how only ‘a tiny number’ of blacks were offered a chance at elite secondary education, the practical and ethical problems with this, and how the number of such fortunate outliers is actually dropping – from ‘10 black students’ in 2018, ‘13 the year before’, and so on.

Not until eight paragraphs in do we stumble upon a caveat that would seem important: no racism whatsoever is involved here, and fairly few whites got into Stuyvesant. The entire student body is selected via a series of high-stakes tests, and was ‘74 per cent’ South and East Asian as of two years ago. Whites, a 61 per cent majority in America if not NYC, had less than 200 slots in the entering class; there were 33 Hispanics.

If this even needs to be said, it is absurd, and rather offensive, to attribute this sort of achievement to ‘whiteness’. Asians, much less Nigerians, are not white. They are not, as a bigot might say of Arabs, ‘kind of white’. These populations are literally high-achieving representatives of the two largest non-white human races. Further, while most black immigrant groups are rather recent arrivals to the US, Asian Americans have hardly had an easy time of it here historically. The Chinese Exclusion Act harshly regulated immigration from the largest East Asian power beginning in 1882, and was not repealed until our alliance with China against Imperial Japan during the Second World War.

During that same war, President Roosevelt incarcerated the large majority of the country’s Japanese Americans in concentration camps, citing military necessity and fear of espionage. Many families lost all they owned. Even today, Americans of Asian descent report acts of racist hostility and aggression at roughly the same rate that blacks do, and East Asians in particular have been the primary targets of a vicious and diverse recent wave of hate attacks. Despite all of this, as I said earlier, both Chinese and Japanese Americans out-earn US whites by almost $20,000. Such success should be celebrated and inspired, not minimised as replica ‘whiteness’.

Interestingly, the reverse trend seems to be occurring, with quite serious people using nonsensical terms such as ‘multi-racial whiteness’ and defining being white as the possession of certain cultural attributes which can lead to success. The Smithsonian and associated National Museum of African American History and Culture recently took some heat for publishing official employee guidelines for talking about race which described ‘individualism’, ‘self-reliance’, ‘the nuclear family’, ‘objective rational thinking’, and ‘delayed gratification’ as white traits. While these seem to be less often mentioned in articles discussing the guidelines, other allegedly Caucasian traits included using ‘the King’s English’, ‘be(ing) polite’ and ‘following schedules’.

All of this, of course, provides would-be wits with almost unlimited opportunities for mockery and banter. Given the primarily pallid composition of Antifa and hard-right riots in the US, jokes about Asians and West Indians out-performing their Caucasian counterparts in the ‘white’ category seem almost inevitable. But there is a better and simpler alternative to absurdity here: stop indulging complete nonsense, and recognise minority success for what it is.


Is being offensive an offence?

In 21st-century Britain, thoughtpolicing is a very real and terrifying thing.

Not for the first time of late, the British constabulary seem to be making up the law as they go along.

Their apparent failure to understand our labyrinthine lockdown laws has led to police officers fining two women for going on a perfectly legal walk, carrying out checks at retail parks for allegedly illicit Easter eggs, and scrambling drones over the Peak District to film miscreants taking their exercise in the open air.

The cops’ desire to go above and beyond actually enforcing the law – to enforcing what they apparently think the law should be – reached new heights in Merseyside this weekend. A group of officers showed up outside an Asda on the Wirral with a digital advan, proclaiming that ‘Being offensive is an offence’, accompanied by a rainbow flag. The stunt was also promoted by the Local Policing Team on social media, as part of an effort to urge LGBT people to come forward and report hate crimes.

Those posts have now been deleted, and after a huge backlash superintendent Martin Earl has had to put out a statement. ‘We would like to clarify that “being offensive” is not in itself an offence’, he said, which was not so much a clarification as the total opposite of what his officers had emblazoned in all-caps, foot-high lettering.

This is not the first time British police officers have given the phrase PC Police a whole new meaning. In 2016, Greater Glasgow Police tweeted: ‘Think before you post or you may receive a visit from us this weekend.’ Next to it was a little graphic, spelling out the word THINK, urging social-media users to ask themselves if their post was ‘true’, ‘hurtful’, ‘illegal’, ‘necessary’ or ‘kind’ before hitting send. In 2018, South Yorkshire police urged people to report ‘offensive or insulting comments’ as part of its ‘Hate Hurts’ campaign.

Perhaps the most bizarre case of this kind of thing was a Facebook post by Gwent Police in 2019. The force posted a mugshot on Facebook of a drug dealer – he had broken his license conditions and they were appealing for information on his whereabouts. After thousands of commenters piled in to mock said drug dealer’s rather unfortunate haircut, the cops warned they may be investigated if they ‘say something about someone which is grossly offensive’.

Why these forces didn’t themselves THINK before they made these sinister statements is worrying. It seems a desperation to mend years of (well-earned) distrust of the police among certain groups – including, apparently, the poorly groomed drug-dealer community – has led some forces to stumble into some almost comically authoritarian behaviour.

But the issue is also the law. Our hate-speech and hate-crime laws are now so expansive that one could almost forgive these coppers their confusion. For instance, ‘being offensive’ may not be a crime as yet, but being ‘grossly offensive’ online can be, under Section 127 of the Communications Act. Under this law, Scottish YouTuber ‘Count Dankula’ was fined £800 for a comedy skit in which he taught his pug to do a Nazi salute; a teenage girl was given a curfew and an ankle tag for quoting ‘grossly offensive’ rap lyrics on Instagram; two teenage boys were arrested for re-enacting the death of George Floyd on Snapchat; and more recently a Twitter troll was arrested for tweeting something nasty about the death of Captain Tom Moore. All were essentially victimless crimes, and these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Then there is the Orwellian phenomena of ‘non-crime hate incidents’. This is where, in the words of the College of Policing, a ‘criminal offence has not taken place, but the victim or any other person perceives that the incident was motivated wholly or partially by hostility’. These are automatically recorded, with no need for any proof or further investigation, and can show up on an advanced background check of the alleged ‘perpetrator’. Harry Miller, a businessman and former policeman, took the cops to court over this when he was investigated by police for retweeting a trans-sceptical limerick. Officers visited his workplace and one called him at home, saying ‘we need to check your thinking’.

Merseyside Police deserve all the flak and mockery they are currently receiving. But when they said ‘being offensive is an offence’ they weren’t as far off the mark as you might think.




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