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Executive Summary for December 11th

We review the latest refugee-related issues, including videos of threats against refugees on Manus, a German professor setting up a site to match refugee and local academics and the European Union promising Turkey aid will be contracted by the end of the year.

Published on Dec. 11, 2017 Read time Approx. 4 minutes

Videos of Refugees Being Threatened on Manus Contradict Australian Minister

Videos have emerged that seem to show Manus Island locals threatening refugees. The two clips appear to contradict the Australian government’s insistence that asylum seekers were lying about threats.

In one clip an apparently inebriated man staggers around a building in which refugees are being housed wielding a long metal implement. He says, “you are a dead man” and “I will kill you” to another person who is out of shot.

In a second video, purported to have been shot last week, a man barges into a refugee shelter claiming to be the owner of the property and demanding food.

Australia’s offshore detention center on Manus was recently closed and its inmates forced to leave the camp after a standoff with authorities. The asylum seekers refused to be relocated, saying they faced threats from the local community.

Australia’s immigration minister Peter Dutton said on December 11 that the refugees’ claims of being threatened were “complete nonsense.”

“The propaganda must stop,” he said. “I didn’t put them on Manus Island but I have the job to get them off. Some people are lying. There is no question of that. Some advocates are behind those lies.”

The closure of the original Manus center was meant to see the remaining asylum seekers moved to a new center at Lorengau, but that facility is not ready so they have been divided between two temporary shelters.

Behrouz Boochani, a refugee journalist who often speaks on behalf of the group, said:“No one should blame the local people for this situation.”

“The government doesn’t respect them and dropped 600 foreign men in their small community,” Boochani told the Guardian Australia. “It’s a problem created by the Australian and PNG governments and they benefit from making the place unsafe for refugees, to put pressure on them to return to their home countries. It’s not safe there, and it’s not safe here.”

German Professor Matchmakes Refugee and Local Academics

A German academic has set up a website to help connect local and refugee academics.

The service, which has 722 registered users, is based on the template of a dating site. It is the brainchild of Carmen Bachmann, a professor from Leipzig University. German professors and researchers enter their field of study and location to be matched to refugees academics who have arrived nearby.

“The primary thinking is to encourage work collaboration, the sharing of ideas or to help refugee scientists gain access to the latest research,” Bachmann told the Guardian. “Alongside it, we have also been running educational workshops for the past year with government funding. They help newcomers understand how the German academic system works.”

The site, Chance for Science, received a year’s grant from the German government and recently convened a conference called “Academics on the Flight” where refugees spoke about their work.

The project introduced Bachmann to Gunay Karli, 45, a Turkish computer scientist and expert on artificial intelligence. His work and life were interrupted when Fatih University, where he was based, was closed by the government in the wake of a failed coup last year.

Many refugees, like Karli, have lost all academic affiliations while fleeing their home country.

“We also want to make people feel like they are staying in touch with the academic world,” said Bachmann. “Being an academic is part of their identity and when refugees come here they lose that. It is important for them to be in an environment where they can be a specialist again and people recognize them as such. People can come together and share ideas, discuss and create networks.”

E.U. Says Funds for Syrians in Turkey Will Be Contracted by End of Year

E.U. officials said that all $3.5 billion (3 billion euros) in support of Syrian refugees in Turkey will be contracted by the year’s end. The funds are part of a controversial deal with the E.U. that stemmed refugee flows into Greece in March 2016.

“We are working hard to complete the contracting of the first 3 billion euros by the end of this year. And definitely we will fulfill our commitments in order to see all projects concluded as soon as possible,” Christos Stylianides, the E.U. commissioner for humanitarian aid, told Turkish journalists in Brussels.

Turkey, which hosts more than 3 million Syrians, has complained at the apparently slow pace of disbursement of funds, saying only $1 billion (900 million euros) have been transferred since the deal.

The complaints were rejected by E.U. ambassador to Turkey Christian Berger, who said: “I have been working in the European Commission for 20 years and I can say that this [allocation of 900 million euros] is at the speed of light. I have not seen any other implementation so fast in less than one-and-a-half years,” Berger said.

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