Executive Summary for March 8th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including criticism in Germany after populist politicians visit Assad in Syria, German far-right terrorists convicted of attempted murder of refugees, and more deaths in the central Mediterranean.

Published on March 8, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

German Nationalists Criticized For Trip to ‘Normal’ Syria

Populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been criticized for sending lawmakers to Syria. The AfD politicians met with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The AfD claims the war is over and wants Syrian refugees in Germany to return home. One M.P., Christian Blex, wrote on Twitter: “Met open and friendly people everywhere who were very happy about our visit. Everything is totally relaxed here.”

The group has posted images to social media, including a meeting with Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun, an Assad loyalist who in 2011 called for suicide attacks in the West.

A German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, attacked the AfD for endorsing Assad regime propaganda: “Idlib, Aleppo, East Ghouta – those are all names known around the world for the suffering of innocent civilians, a suffering that President Assad orders or accepts,” he told reporters in Berlin.

“(Assad’s) war against his own population triggered a refugee movement of historic proportions,” Seibert added. “That’s why anyone who courts this regime disqualifies themselves.”

After AfD came third in last year’s election, scrutiny of the party has increased. A report this week revealed that the party’s leader in the eastern state of Brandenburg, Andreas Kalbitz, attended a camp in 2007 run by “Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend,” a far-right group that has since been banned.

Far-Right Terrorists Who Attacked Refugees Sentenced in Germany

Members of a far-right terrorist group have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for the attempted murder of refugees. Seven men and one woman were convicted of setting up the Freital Group.

The group, which planned attacks on refugee shelters and politicians in eastern Germany, named themselves after their base in Saxony, the state that is also a stronghold for the Alternative for Germany party, which is now the official opposition in the country.

The year-long trial heard how in one attack the suspects set off explosives next to windows at a refugee shelter with people inside. Prosecutors argued that even though only one resident suffered cuts people could have been seriously hurt or even killed.

“The individuals submitted themselves to the will of the group and the goal of this organization was to commit murders,” senior public prosecutor Joern Hauschild said.

At Least 23 Dead in Central Mediterranean

At least 23 people are suspected to have drowned in two deadly incidents off the coast of Libya, according to U.N. officials.

Survivors of a shipwreck who were rescued on March 3 said 21 other passengers on the small wooden boat were lost at sea, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

Dozens of other migrants were found the same day in a rubber dinghy. Two infants among them were found dead. While around 40 passengers were rescued by a Cypriot commercial ship and eventually brought to Italy, about 90 others were taken by the Libyan coast guard back to Libya.

This year, 316 people have died along the route from Libya, while some 5,300 made it to Italy. During the same period in 2017, before Italy stepped up deals to curb people smuggling in Libya last summer, 15,750 people crossed the same way and 442 died en route.

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