Fear, a decisive force in these European elections

As the European Parliament elections approach, a growing sense of fear stemming from multiple — yet mutually reinforcing — sources seems to be the decisive force shaping electoral behaviour. Citizens of the EU experience uncertainty in the face of broad economic and cultural changes occurring at an unprecedented pace, coupled by unforeseen crises, such as Covid and the climate crisis, and the re-emergence of war conflicts, on a continent accustomed to peace for over half a century.

The survey

Last month, more than 10,800 European voters took a stand on the pressing issues and running challenges of the EU, as part of a large-scale comparative survey conducted by Kapa Research across 10 member countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Spain) between May 4 and 24, 2024.

This survey goes beyond domestic dilemmas or voting intentions. Taking a closer look at emerging and established trends within European societies between 2019 and 2024, it examines what shapes the bloc’s social agenda today, citizen concerns about European and international issues, leadership expectations, and opinions about leading global figures. On question after question, responses reveal a strong undercurrent of fear impacting voting behaviour just days before June’s European elections, emanating from four critical realities.

Rising cost of living is the foremost concern for Europeans heading to the polls.

Fear cause No.1: Economic uncertainty

Rising cost of living is the foremost concern for Europeans heading to the polls. Inflation shocks that have stunned European economies during the post-pandemic period established a deep-rooted unease about people’s ability to make ends meet. Asked about issues that worry them most when thinking of today’s Europe, respondents, at an average of 47 percent , place “rising cost of living” as their top concern. The issue has become remarkably salient in countries like France (58 percent), Greece (55 percent), Romania (54 percent), Spain (49 percent), and Bulgaria (44 percent), yet, still, in the rest of the surveyed member countries the cost of living ends up among the top three causes of concern. This wide sense of economic uncertainty is further spurred by a lingering feeling of unfairness when it comes to the distribution of wealth: M ore than eight out of 10 (81 percent overall) sense that “in Europe, the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer”.

via Kapa Research

Anxiety transforms into fear when one realizes that the main political conflict has little to do with competing economic solutions to high living costs. Instead, it is more of a clash between systemic forces and extremists, primarily centred on the field of immigration and the perceived threat to the European way of life.

Fear cause No.2: Immigration

On the cultural front, since 2015, immigration in Europe has been a complex and multifaceted issue, with humanitarian and political implications. In our survey, immigration appears to be the second most important citizen concern with 37 percent (on average), while, at the same time, on the question of which areas should Europe focus on the next five years, calls for “stricter immigration control” are prevalent, with 36 percent of respondents across all surveyed countries ranking it as a top priority. This is notably evident in Germany (56 percent), in spite of its reputation as a welcoming country early in the migration crisis, and in Italy (40 percent), a hub-country into Europe for migrants and refugees. More importantly, the perception of immigration as a “threat to public order” is widespread, with 68 percent of respondents holding this view, compared to only 23 percent who see it as an “opportunity for a new workforce”.

via Kapa Research

Fear cause No.3: War on our doorstep

The return of war to Europe has reignited fears about security; conflicts in Ukraine and, more recently, in Gaza come into play as new factors impacting this year’s EU elections. In this survey, “the Russia-Ukraine war” is the third most pressing concern for 35 percent of respondents, only two percentage points below “immigration ”. Here geographical proximity is crucial as the issue is especially prominent in Estonia (52 percent), Hungary (50 percent), Poland (50 percent), and Romania (43 percent), all neighbouring countries to either Russia or Ukraine. Additionally, demand for immediate ceasefire on both fronts is prevalent: 65 percent believe that hostilities in Gaza “must stop immediately ”, while the same view is supported by 60 percent for the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

To this end, as the feeling of danger from wars and terrorism grows stronger, EU-UK relations become indirectly connected to the issue of security: 56% of respondents wish for a (re)alignment between Great Britain and the EU. At the same time, and compared to current leaders, former UK PM Tony Blair enjoys strong popularity ratings.

Fear cause No.4: The unknown reality of AI

Over time, technological advancement has been widely welcomed as a positive development for humanity, as a means of improving living conditions, and as a growth accelerator. The rapid rise of a rtificial i ntelligence in citizens’ day-to-day lives seems to be disrupting this tradition. Among the member countries surveyed, an average majority of 51 percent considers AI more as a “threat to humanity” rather than as an “opportunity” (31 percent ). Along the same vein, scepticism is reflected in the reluctance to embrace AI as a strategic goal for the EU in the next five years, with 54 percent opposing such a move.

via Kapa Research

Mixing all four of the above ingredients produces an explosive cocktail of fear within European societies.

Key takeaway

Mixing all four of the above ingredients produces an explosive cocktail of fear within European societies. While combined with the prevalent EU technocracy and the weak institutions-to-citizens communication, it is reasonable to expect mounted distrust and electoral consequences. Voters will use their ballot to send painful messages. However, our survey shows that the great majority still favo r strengthening the European acquis — security, freedom, democracy, growth, and social cohesion — and seek a competent leadership that can defend it.

via Kapa Research

See full survey report by Kapa Research here.



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Eastern European women and children trafficked to shoplift in the UK

Organised criminal gangs have been found trafficking women and children in the UK for large-scale shoplifting, exacerbating an alarming surge in retail crime, while a grim reality of human trafficking unfolds.

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Women and children from Eastern Europe are being trafficked in large numbers to the UK, and put to work by organised crime gangs to carry out large-scale shoplifting operations. 

Police, and charities who work with vulnerable people, say many trafficked people are also pressganged into pickpocketing, begging and selling drugs; and that thousands more young asylum seekers who arrived in the UK unaccompanied are at risk of further exploitation by criminal gangs. 

In one high-profile case, authorities say an Eastern European criminal gang based in Glasgow has recruited 154 thieves since its discovery in 2019. The gang strategically targets retailers in major cities, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Darlington, and various locations across the North and Scotland.

The gang’s activities were first reported by BBC Scotland.

Non-profit organisation Retailers Against Crime (RAC) which detects and prevents criminal activity by sharing information among its members, told Euronews that they receive intelligence from partners about individuals that are committing high-value bulk thefts of various items. 

“The results from the reports show that these individuals are travelling country-wide committing crimes,” RAC said.

Epidemic of retail crime

Retail thefts are on the rise in the UK, with shoplifting up 25% year-on-year in England and Wales, while Scotland saw a 21% increase compared to the year before, according to a recent report by the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (USDAW).

“This 25% increase in shoplifting is further evidence that we are facing an epidemic of retail crime, which is hugely concerning,” USDAW General Secretary Paddy Lillis stated.

‘Our members have reported that they are often faced with hardened career criminals in the stores and we know that retail workers are much more likely to be abused by those who are stealing to sell goods on.’

Detective Superintendent Steven Bertram, leading the Police Scotland national child abuse investigation, emphasised their commitment to disrupt organised criminal activities, particularly those involved in human trafficking.

“These criminals are known to commit human trafficking, which is the illegal trade in human beings, both adults and children, for the purposes of commercial exploitation,” he told Euronews.

Criminal exploitation such as forced shoplifting, begging and selling of drugs made up just under 9% of modern slavery-related calls to the anti-slavery charity Unseen’s helpline.

Shoplifting costs UK retailers hundreds of millions

Whilst the statistics paint a grim picture of the increasing prevalence of shoplifting, the implications of this criminal enterprise reach beyond the immediate economic impact.

Although shoplifting is often seen as petty theft its increase has also meant higher costs for retailers with £953 million (€1.15 billion) lost in shoplifted goods in the UK last year.

‘‘More than not, [shoplifting] is linked to serious and organised crime with information being reported on a daily basis involving Organised Crime Groups travelling nationwide.’ the RAC told Euronews.

‘There needs to be a change in the way retail crime in particular shoplifting is perceived, and it simply must stop being swept under the carpet and portrayed as a petty crime.’

Why Eastern European women?

Primarily, those recruited by the Eastern European crime organisation in Glasgow were women, and also children, as they are usually seen as less suspicious by retail security.

Although UK nationals are the most commonly identified victims of modern slavery and human trafficking reported in Britain, they are followed by Albanians, Vietnamese and Romanians, many of whom are either here legally or have overstayed their visas.

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The UK is an attractive place for many Eastern Europeans, with large established communities, and better pay and improved access to medical services, a recent report by the Home Affairs Committee on human trafficking stated, talking specifically about Romanian women being trafficked in the UK.

Romania, along with other Eastern European countries, has low wage levels, widespread poverty, limited access to higher education, and a lack of government support, particularly for single mothers making them more at risk. 

The National Crime Agency reports a 10.3% increase in referrals for modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK in 2022. Experts say this underscores the urgent need for comprehensive efforts to address the root causes and consequences of human trafficking.

Trafficking Children

Estimates suggest 27,000 children are at high risk of exploitation by organised crime gangs in the UK, with many being coerced using varying tactics to entrap them into committing crimes ranging from shoplifting to selling drugs.

“Criminals often use a range of tactics, exploiting children both online and offline,” Jess Edwards, Senior Policy Advisor for Childhood Harms at Barnardo’s, explained to Euronews. 

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“Children can be approached on social media and gaming platforms, or in local areas, with offers of ways to earn some money.”

“In one case, a child was offered a Subway sandwich after not being able to afford lunch, and then was exploited into criminal activity to ‘repay’ the debt,” Edwards explained.

Many refugees and migrants coming to the UK are children separated from their families, leaving a large vulnerable group exposed, with 20% of referrals through Barnardo’s Independent Child Trafficking Service for criminal exploitation being children from abroad.

More than 4,000 unaccompanied child refugees have been placed in hotels in the UK since 2021. The ongoing risks faced by these vulnerable children include trafficking and exploitation for forced labour, and criminal activities.

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Influx of migrants from Russia to Finland: ‘This will put pressure on Europe’

Since the beginning of November, more than 400 asylum seekers have arrived at Finnish border crossings from Russia, compared to the usual ten or so a month. Helsinki accuses Moscow of orchestrating this influx of migrants and has closed almost all its border crossings. As a result, more and more migrants are heading for northern Russia, despite the cold, where a crossing point is expected to remain open for the next few days.

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Between November 1 and 17, 415 people – hailing from Syria, Yemen, Iraq or Somalia – arrived at border crossings in southeastern Finland to request asylum. They came from Russia without Schengen visas or residence permits. This figure is much higher than usual, according to the Finnish border guards who noticed an increase in asylum seekers arriving since August.

Number of asylum seekers arriving at border crossings in southeastern Finland in 2023. Finnish Border Guard

On social media, videos show people, often on bicycles, heading for the border posts with Finland.


Video posted on Twitter on November 19, 2023 and filmed in Russia, around 40 km from the Vartius border crossing.

Finland has accused Russia of masterminding the surge of migrants, a sentiment shared by the European Commission. They say the move is meant to destabilise the country, as retaliation for Finland joining NATO in April and aligning with the United States on defence issues. The Finnish Prime Minister emphasised that “Russia is instrumentalising migrants” in what amounts to a “hybrid attack”.

Finnish border guards agree. “Previously the Russians didn’t let people cross their border crossing point to Finland without required travel documents to Finland, but now they have.The phenomenon at the eastern border involves elements of organised illegal immigration facilitated by international crime including active marketing in social media,” Commander Pentti Alapelto of the Finnish Border Guard told FRANCE 24. 

Russia has rejected these accusations.

‘We give [border guards] $500 per person to let them continue their way to Finland from the Russian-Finnish crossing’

On November 22, we spoke on WhatsApp with Ahmed (not his real name), whose number appears on videos online filmed near the border. He claims to be in Turkey, where he is organising safe passage for migrants between Russia and the Finnish border.

I help people by sending them by car to the border in agreement with the Russian police. After that, I give the Russian border police $500 [€457] per person to cross, and the police give them bicycles.

No, there was no agreement with the border police [before November]. One of my men working on the Russian-Finnish border told me. I expect this is to put pressure on Europe with immigrants. 

I charge $1,200 [€1,097] per person: $500 for the border guard, $200 per person for the driver – because I am the owner of the car – and $500 for myself.

I sent about 200 people to the border with Russia in just 10 days [since November 12]. They are mainly Syrians, Iraqis, Tunisians, Moroccans, Turks, Yemenis and Lebanese. Of the people I delivered, some of them were in Russia, the others were in Belarus, and some of them came from Georgia or Turkey.

On a Telegram channel, this person is offering two seats in his car for the journey from Saint Petersburg to Salla in 14 hours, for the price of $400.
On a Telegram channel, this person is offering two seats in his car for the journey from Saint Petersburg to Salla in 14 hours, for the price of $400. © Telegram

We have not been able to independently verify this smuggler’s claims. However, the “agreement” he describes with the Russians is consistent with the accusations made by the Finns. In addition, in a conversation on a Telegram channel, a man claimed to be in contact with someone who had managed to cross the border after paying $100 to a Russian border guard. 

In addition, videos filmed near the border and posted on social networks show people on bicycles. The Reuters news agency has also published photos of rows of bikes at various border posts (for example at Salla on November 23). 

Crossing the border on foot is prohibited, so many have chosen to take bikes to bypass this restriction. Last week, however, Finland barred entry by bicycle.


The video on the left, posted on Twitter on November 17, 2023, was taken in Russia, just 3 km from the Nuijamaa border crossing. It also shows people on bicycles.

Almost all border crossings closed

To counter the influx of undocumented migrants, Finland closed four border crossings on the night of November 17, and three more on the night of November 23. Only one crossing point in the north remains open for asylum seekers.

Border crossings closed in Finland since November 17.
Border crossings closed in Finland since November 17. © Observers

On Friday November 24, “Ahmed” told us that he would continue to send people to the Finnish border as long as there was an open crossing point. 

On November 22, our team spoke to a Syrian whose two relatives recently tried to reach the Finnish border: “One of my friends was able to enter Finland five days ago. He paid $350 for a 12-hour journey from Moscow to a crossing point, then had to pay $300 [€274] for the bike.” His brother, on the other hand, was unable to cross the border.

We also spoke to two men who have not been able to enter Finland either, due to the phased closure of border crossings. One of them, who did not want to give his nationality, said that he had paid $700 (€640) to travel from Saint Petersburg to the border a few days ago, to no avail. 

Another, a Syrian, says he paid $100 to travel from Moscow to Saint Petersburg with four people from Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Somalia. Once there, he paid a further $300 to travel north by taxi. At the time of writing, he had still not managed to cross the border. He told us that it was -25°C where he was.

‘There is a substantial chance of people freezing to death’

The Civic Assistance Committee, a Russian NGO that helps migrants and refugees, told us about Finland’s decision to close its border crossings.

This decision will impact a wide variety of people. First of all, it will severe connections between families that live in both countries. Secondly, it will trap refugees from Syria, Yemen, Somalia, etc. that have close to zero chances of obtaining asylum in Russia inside the country. Finland doing this bypasses the problem of dealing with asylum seekers and processing their application. If you have zero asylum seekers because they can’t enter your country, then you don’t have to provide asylum to anyone.

People are living in tents near the northern crossing points. There is a substantial chance of people freezing to death as this November is very cold and we’ve seen such incidents during the situation on the Belarus-EU border. These asylum seekers need to be treated with respect and put out of the danger of freezing to death.

We know that dozens of refugees were detained by the police, tried and sentenced to deportation because they are now illegally in Russia with expired visas and no asylum.

One of the Syrians we spoke to also expressed this fear: “At the moment, I can’t tell you which village I’m in, because if the Russians find out there are migrants here, they’ll come and get us and send us back to Syria.”

Read moreMigrants turned away at Belarus-Poland border: ‘We see families and people with disabilities’



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A flood of misinformation about migrants in Lampedusa

Thousands of individuals, predominantly from sub-Saharan Africa, have recently arrived on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, reigniting the discussion on the EU and European states’ approach to handling illegal immigration. Amidst this context, people online have been sharing three deceptive videos with the intent of disparaging migrants arriving in Italy.

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If you only have a minute 

  • One video shared on X (formerly Twitter) claims to show a fight among migrants in Lampedusa. However, a reverse image search reveals that the video dates to 2021. It shows a fight outside a club, nowhere near Lampedusa.

  • Some people have also shared a video showing migrants dancing with NGO staff, claiming the scene took place this weekend in Lampedusa. However, the video was taken in August, in the UK.

  • Finally, one video claims that migrants who made their way into Europe through Lampedusa had started skirmishes in Stuttgart, Germany. The incident did indeed take place last weekend, but there’s no indication that it involved migrants.

The fact-check, in detail

On September 14, around 7,000 migrants landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa in the span of just 48 hours. So far in 2023, nearly 126,000 migrants have arrived in Italy – twice as many as last year.

Against this backdrop, a number of videos have been shared on social media networks targeting migrants. 

This fight between ‘migrants’ dates back to 2021 – and isn’t in Lampedusa

“The migrants in Lampedusa, Italy are getting restless,” reads the caption on this video shared on X on September 18. The video shows a group of people in the midst of a violent fight. A group of young men are seen beating another man, who appears to be taking cover behind a policeman before being chased away by the group.

The video had garnered more than 169,000 views on X before it was deleted.

September 18 post on X claiming to show a fight between migrants in Lampedusa. © X / @WallStreetSilv

A simple reverse image search (click here to find out how) reveals that the original video was published on August 10, 2021 by Rossini TV, a regional channel based in Pesaro, central Italy.


The title of the report states that the video shows a brawl in Marotta, a village near Pesaro. 

We searched for details about the incident and found that several local newspapers reported on a brawl outside a Marotta club on August 7, 2021. During the fight, which started inside the club, a Senegalese man was stabbed in the abdomen. Two Italian police officers were also injured while trying to intervene. Four people were arrested, including two Albanians, a Dominican, and a Senegalese person.

The video was published two years ago, and has nothing to do with the current influx of migrants to Lampedusa.

These migrants filming themselves dancing with volunteers and members of NGOs were not in Lampedusa

With over 3 million combined views on X, a video posted on several accounts claims to show migrants taking selfies while dancing with volunteers from NGOs, even though they have just arrived on the island of Lampedusa.

Screenshot on X, September 16, showing migrants dancing with members of an NGO, allegedly in Lampedusa according to the post's caption.
Screenshot on X, September 16, showing migrants dancing with members of an NGO, allegedly in Lampedusa according to the post’s caption. © X / @stillgray

There are several indications that the scene did not take place in Lampedusa. Firstly, when the person filming himself with the NGO members dancing, you can see a red and white logo on an employee’s jacket: it identifies the NGO Care4Calais

On its website, the organisation explains that its volunteers work with refugees in the UK, France and Belgium. Members of Care4Calais are not currently in Lampedusa. 

If you go further, using a reverse image search, you can find an earlier post featuring the same video. On August 25, 2023, @BFirstParty, the X account of the British political party Britain First, already published it, accusing the Care4Calais association in the caption of being a “traitorous” NGO, having committed a serious faux-pas by dancing with refugees at the border in the UK.

Screenshot taken on August 25 on X, showing the reaction of the British political party Britain First after members of the NGO Care4Calais danced with refugees.
Screenshot taken on August 25 on X, showing the reaction of the British political party Britain First after members of the NGO Care4Calais danced with refugees. © X / @BFirstParty

We contacted Care4Calais, who confirmed that this video does indeed show some of its volunteers dancing with refugees. They also confirmed that the video was not taken this month. The organisation added: “There is no context to the video. As you will be aware, Care4Calais delivers humanitarian aid to refugees in northern France. Whilst distributing that aid, our volunteers interact with refugees with kindness and compassion, often sitting down to share stories (some, as you can imagine, are very harrowing) and in this video they are enjoying a dance.”

Therefore, this video was not taken in Lampedusa, and has nothing to do with the current migrant arrivals on the Italian island.

Clashes don’t involve migrants who arrived via Lampedusa

After the arrival of migrants on the island of Lampedusa, this video was posted on X to denounce the impact of welcoming them to Europe. In a caption, the @Linfo24_7 account claims that the people behind the violent clashes in Stuttgart on Saturday were “illegal immigrants from Lampedusa”.

Screenshot from September 17 of an X post claiming that migrants from Lampedusa have sparked clashes in Germany.
Screenshot from September 17 of an X post claiming that migrants from Lampedusa have sparked clashes in Germany. © X / @Linfo24_7

A reverse image search reveals that the scene was filmed in Stuttgart on September 16. The violence in Germany followed an Eritrean cultural festival organised by groups close to the president, as confirmed by Africa News

During the day, opponents of the government came to protest against the festival, triggering scuffles between pro- and anti-government Eritrean activists. People close to the opposition were accused of assaulting the police as they intervened to stop the conflict.


There’s no indication that migrants who had just arrived in Lampedusa had travelled to Stuttgart to start riots, or that those involved had arrived via Lampedusa illegally. Furthermore, an article by Sud Ouest explains that, as early as July, a similar conflict had broken out between Eritreans north of Frankfurt. 

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Decline, fear and the AfD in Germany

Mathias Döpfner is chairman and CEO of Axel Springer, POLITICO’s parent company.

In Germany today, the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) is maintaining a stable 20 percent in opinion polls — coming in two to four points ahead of the ruling center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and running hard on the heels of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

In some federal states, the AfD is already the strongest party. In Thuringia, for example, it has reached 34 percent, meaning the party has three times as many supporters there as the SPD. And in some administrative districts, around half of those eligible to vote are leaning toward the AfD. According to one Forsa survey in June, the AfD is currently the strongest party in the east of Germany — a worrying trend with elections due this year in Bavaria and Hesse, and next year in Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg. And, of course, there are also the European Union elections in 2024.

However, this rapid rise should come as no surprise. The writing has been on the wall for a long time. And more than anything else, the party’s recent advances are a result of an increasing sense among broad swathes of the population that they aren’t being represented by traditional political and media elites.

This disconnect was first accelerated by the refugee crisis of 2015, then increased during the pandemic, and has since escalated in response to the increasing high-handedness of the “woke movement” and climate politics. Just a few weeks ago, a survey by the German Civil Service Association revealed trust in the government’s ability to do its job is at an all-time low, with 69 percent saying it is deeply out of its depth.

Meanwhile, opinion polls show the government fares particularly badly in Germany’s east. A rising number of people — including the otherwise stable but also staid middle classes — now feel enough is enough, and no other party is as good at exploiting this feeling as the AfD.

The problem, however, is the AfD isn’t a normal democratic party.

The regional offices of Germany’s domestic intelligence services in the federal states of Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Lower Saxony and Baden-Württemberg have all classified their local AfD associations as “organizations of interest.”

And the same applies at the federal level. The national office of the domestic intelligence service, the remit of which includes protecting the German constitution, has also classified the national party of the AfD as “of interest.”

These concerns about the party’s commitment to the constitution aren’t unjustified. In a 2018 speech at the national conference of the party’s youth section, Junge Alternative, former AfD chairman Alexander Gauland said that “Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird shit in a thousand years of successful German history.”

When speaking about the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Björn Höcke, group chairman of the AfD in Thuringia, said on 2017 that “We Germans — and I’m not talking about you patriots who have gathered here today. We Germans, our people, are the only people in the world to place a monument of shame in the heart of our capital city.”

And in a speech in the Bundestag in 2018, party boss Alice Weidel bandied about terms like “headscarf girls” and “knife-wielding men,” while her co-chairman Tino Chrupalla speaks of an “Umvolkung” — that is, an “ethnicity inversion” — which comes straight out of Nazi ideology.

This small sample of public statements leaves no doubt that such utterings aren’t slips of the tongue — they reflect these leaders’ core beliefs.

And while many vote for the AfD out of protest, more than anything else, the party feeds off resentment and fear, exploiting and fueling anger, hate and envy, pushing conspiracy theories to hit out at “those at the top,” as well as foreigners, Jews, the LGTBQ+ community or just about anyone who might be deemed different. And the party leaders’ blatant admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin exposes their reverence for autocracy.

Failure to prevent the AfD’s rise could potentially first corrode, then shatter democracy and rule of law in Germany.

But how can a party like this, which is getting stronger in the polls, be dealt with? Is a ban the right way to go? They are always difficult to deal with, and it isn’t even an option at this stage. What about joining the AfD to form a coalition and temper the party? That is even more difficult, as it is unreasonable to argue that the AfD should be treated like other parties. The Nazis and Adolf Hitler had also been democratically elected when they seized power in 1933.

So, what options remain? Many politicians and journalists say we need to confront the AfD with critical arguments. Sounds good on the face of it. But people have already been doing that for a decade — with scant success.

This is why the only remaining option is to attempt what neither the AfD nor many politicians from established parties have been able to do: Start taking voters’ most important concerns and issues seriously, and seek to find solutions.

The fears that have allowed the AfD to become as big as it is today are clearly identifiable. When a recent survey by Infratest Dimap asked “What topics most influence your decision to vote for the AfD at the moment?” 65 percent said immigration, 47 percent said energy policies and 43 percent named the economy.

And in their handling of all three of these key issues, the older parties have demonstrated moral cowardice and a lack of honesty.

This is especially apparent when it comes to immigration.

Why is it so hard for centrist politicians to just come out and say a few simple truths? Germany is a land of immigration, and it must remain so if it wants to be economically successful. And modern migration policy needs a healthy balance between altruism and self-interest.

According to economists’ most recent estimations, Germany needs to bring in 1 to 1.5 million skilled individuals per year from abroad. What we need is an immigration of excellence and qualified workers. People from war zones and crisis regions should obviously be taken in. But beyond that, we can only take the migrants we need, the ones who will benefit us.

This means the social welfare benefits for immigrants require critical rethinking, with the goal of creating a situation where every immigrant would be able to and would have to actually start working immediately. Then add to this factors that are a matter of course in countries with a successful history of integration: learning the local language and respecting the constitution and the laws. And anyone who doesn’t must leave — and fast.

Germany’s current immigration policy is dysfunctional. Most politicians and journalists are fully aware of this, but they just won’t say it out loud. And all this does is strengthen the AfD, as well as other groups on the left and right that have no true respect for democracy.

Not speaking out about the problem is the biggest problem. Indeed, when issues are taboo, it doesn’t make the issues any smaller, just the demagogues stronger.

We’re seeing the same with energy policy. Everyone knows that in the short term, our energy needs can’t be met by wind and solar power alone. Anyone interested in reality knows decarbonization without nuclear power isn’t going to be feasible any time soon. And they know heat pumps and cutting vacation flights won’t solve the global carbon challenge — it will, however, weaken the German economy.

We need only look at one example: While just over 2 percent of global carbon emissions come from aviation, almost a third are caused by China — an increasing amount of which comes from coal-fired power stations. Ordinary Germans are very much aware the sacrifices they’re being asked to make, and the costs being piled on them, make no sense in the broader scheme of things, and they’re understandably upset.

In some cases, this makes them more likely to vote for the AfD.

This brings us to the third and final reason why people are so agitated. The EU, and above all Germany, has broken its promise about advancing prosperity and growth. Fewer young people now see a future for themselves in Germany; more and more service providers and companies are leaving; and the increasing number of immigrants without means is reducing the average GNP per capita. Germans aren’t becoming more prosperous — they’re becoming poorer.

Traditional politicians and political parties unable to offer change are thus on very shaky ground. They have disconnected themselves from their voters, and they are paving the way for populists who use bogeyman tactics and offer simplistic solutions that solve nothing.



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Far-right militants in Greece illegally ‘arrest’ migrants they blame for fires

Two videos posted online on August 23 show Greek members of the extreme right illegally “arresting” migrants in Evros, a Greek region bordering Turkey. The footage shows the militants forcing one group of men to sit in the dirt. Another group of terrified migrants have been crammed into a trailer. While members of the far right have carried out this type of illegal arrest of migrants before, it is rare to have footage of it. The attackers accuse the migrants of being responsible for the widespread fires in the region. These militiamen feel empowered by the political context hostile to migrants, say our Observers. 

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“Four more … you see? It is noon and where are the authorities? […] We will contact the police, but there is never any response,” rages the man filming a video posted online on August 27. While it is clear the video was filmed in the region of Evros, it’s not clear when it was filmed.  

The man filming points the camera at four men, migrants, sitting on the ground in the dirt behind a Land Rover. Meanwhile, at least two other men loiter alongside the vehicle – seemingly in cahoots with the man behind the camera. At the end of the video, the man turns the camera on himself and you can see that he is bearded and wearing a black tee-shirt and camouflage pants. 

The video was posted on social media by an account under the name Walandi Abrassis – likely the man who filmed it.  

A video posted online a few days earlier shows a similar scene – albeit even more disturbing. The guy filming focuses the shot on his Land Rover, which has a trailer attached. When he opens the door, there are at least four men crammed inside, looking terrified. 

“I’ve loaded up 25 of them into the trailer. Get organised, get them all out and grab them,” he says. He seems to be speaking to his cronies about the migrant men in the trailer. “The whole mountain is full, guys.”

“They swore to burn us […] They will burn us, that’s all I’ll say,” he adds, this time referring to the wildfire that has been raging across the northeast of Greece, considered to be the largest ever recorded in the European Union. According to the local press, this video was filmed in Alexandroupoli, just a few kilometres from the Turkish border, the Evros River. 

The website the Press Project later reported that these militia men had “arrested” 13 migrant men, not 25 as the man filming claimed. The victims told journalists that the militants had beaten them with metal rods. 

“They took off all of our clothes and filmed us. We stayed there a long time, sweating and unable to breathe,” said one of the 13 men who was detained. 

Greek authorities have put the man who filmed this second video under house arrest awaiting charges.

‘These militia members arrest migrants but because they can’t deport them, they hand them over to police’

Panayote Dimitras is the spokesperson for the Greek Helsinki Monitor, a human rights NGO that gathers information on migrants who have been forcibly deported from Greece either by the police or civilians:

This phenomenon has existed for decades, but this time they decided to share videos of their actions themselves. This footage illustrates things that organisations like ours have been reporting for a long time. The release of the footage resulted in a deputy prosecutor of the Supreme Court assigning a local prosecutor to deal with it. That said, nothing has been done about all of these illegal deportations orchestrated by Greece, even though they have been widely documented. So it is doubtful that people will be punished here. However, all of this information can be added to the files that we can give to international institutions like the European Court of Human Rights to show how that happens to migrants in the region. 

We know that these militias cooperate with local police. In Evros, these militia members arrest migrants but because they can’t deport them, they hand them over to police. The police don’t report the incidents because if the migrants’ presence is recorded, then they have the right to claim asylum and can no longer be illegally deported. 

Far-right parties like the Golden Dawn and the Greek Solution are trying to find support in the region and it is clear that the men in these videos have links to local far right organisations.

The man who filmed the video posted on August 27 hasn’t yet been arrested. However, he was interviewed in a far-right publication as well as on Facebook. He claimed that he was just bringing water and assistance to migrants.  

Migrants blamed

On Greek social media, citizen patrol groups have been working together to chase off migrants who have crossed the border from Turkey, as shown in a report by the Press Project, which shared screengrabs of a conversation on Viber. Leaders of the far right openly blamed the fires on migrants travelling through Evros. The chairperson of the Greek Solution party, Paris Papadakis, who comes from Alexandroupoli, wrote on Facebook: “I have information about illegals who are disrupting the work of [Canadair] pilots. We need to act! […] We are at war”. 

On August 30, the rightwing Prime Minister, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, implied that migrants were behind the fire, though there is no proof of that. 

“It is almost certain that the causes are man-made,” the prime minister said. “It is also almost certain that the fire began on routes often used by illegal migrants who have entered our country.”

However, he added that “acts of self-defence and self-proclaimed sheriffs are not tolerated by this government”,

They have a certain ideology that is not very different to that of the state: to protect the border, not letting people cross, using violence to prevent them’

Eva (not her real name) lives in Evros and has been following the situation closely. She asked to remain anonymous:

In March 2020, when Turkey opened its borders to put pressure on the European Union, police  officially asked for help from civilians in controlling the migrants who entered the country. A local organisation of fishermen on Evros, Aenisio Delta Evros, became very active in arresting migrants. Officially, that’s no longer the case and the police don’t want people to think that they tolerate that. But when you ask them if they are still doing it … they won’t respond to the question, which says a lot. 

A lot of these people have very good relations with the police and the army especially the Aenisio Delta Evros association, and also the local authorities. It’s wrong to call them vigilantes: they have an internalised ideology of protecting the border, to serve the state. In their mind, they don’t do anything to go against the interest of the Greek state. They have a certain ideology that is not very different to that of the state: to protect the border, not letting people cross, using violence to prevent them, which is a very significant pattern in Evros.

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Left in limbo: The struggle to lay loved ones to rest

When a migrant dies trying to enter Europe, their family and friends often face an agonising struggle to bring their remains back home for burial.

Their last contact was a late-night phone call.

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Sanooja Saleem’s husband was in tears. He was lost, alone somewhere in the dark, dank border area between Lithuania and Belarus. His phone was running out of battery. He didn’t have food or water.

And then nothing.

For four and a half months, she tirelessly tried to find out what happened to Samrin, her only clue a fleeting WhatsApp live location shared in the early hours of 17 August 2022.

“Words can’t express how I felt during this time. We had no clue about my husband. Every day my son was asking for his father,” the 32-year-old told Euronews. “We couldn’t sleep.”

As her then four-year-old son Haashim grew increasingly distressed with each passing day, “crying all the time” and refusing to go to school, she contacted the Lithuanian and Belarusian police, who seldom spoke a word of English, and as many institutions, authorities and organisations as possible.

Then her worst fears were confirmed. She received a call the following January that Samrin had passed away, his body recovered from a river months before.

“My husband made a mistake. I accept that. Entering a country without a proper visa is illegal and wrong. I did not support him in this matter.” 

“I lost my husband. He was very healthy, young. He’s not a criminal. He wanted to survive, he was suffering. He wanted to keep our family happy. That’s why he came.” 

Yet the saga didn’t stop there. As if the news of losing her loved one was not hard enough, the working mum faced the struggle of getting his body back to their home in Sri Lanka.

With Samrin taking on debt to pay for his journey to Europe, Sanooja couldn’t afford to come and identify his body, let alone cover the cost of repatriating his remains.

“I was with my husband side by side through everything. But at that point, I was so helpless. My relatives tried to get me to the funeral but I was not ready. I was not okay with leaving my son.”

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As a Muslim, “when a person passes away, we have to bury them very soon,” she told Euronews. “We believe dead bodies feel the pain. It was very difficult for me.”

She eventually decided to lay him to rest in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, but even without her money problems, Sanooja doubted she could get the visa to visit his grave.

It can be difficult for third-country nationals to obtain visas to enter the EU. Visas are often unaffordable, subject to lengthy delays and liable to be refused.  

“One day I would like to come and visit him,” she said. 

Identifying the dead after shipwrecks

But Sanooja is far from alone. 

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After a rickety fishing trawler overflowing with people heading to Italy over the Mediterranean sank in June, relatives are still frantically searching for loved ones among the missing and dead. 

An estimated 500-750 people – mostly from Syria, Egypt and Pakistan – are thought to have drowned when the ship capsized, making it one of the deadliest migrant shipwrecks in the Med. 

Only 82 bodies have been recovered. The rest, including women and children, sank to one of the deepest parts of the sea estimated at 4,000 m. Here recovery is all but impossible.

For some, the lack of a body to bury means they hold out hope, however improbable, that their wife, brother, friend, sister, husband, lover or son is out there somewhere, still alive. They may never get closure. 

Yet, some may be able to close this door. 

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Greek authorities have begun a slow, meticulous, heart-wrenching process to identify the dead. 

Complicating their task is a dearth of information about who was on board, as relatives from war-torn and impoverished countries struggle to provide DNA samples, but the Disaster Victim Identification Team have set up a hotline and is still receiving genetic samples.

Their painstaking work continues. 

Tragedy is also common in the English Channel, which has seen several devastating shipwrecks in recent years. 

Six Afghan men were the latest people to drown when their inflatable dinghy sank in August, according to a UK official. 

Many Afghans are running because they served with British armed forces during their military operation in Afghanistan. They are now persecuted, amid reports of vicious reprisals by the Taliban. 

When asked by Euronews if it had any formal processes in place to help recover migrant bodies, the UK Home Office did not respond. If their remains end up with the authorities, they also did not say if they would help repatriate them. 

What happens when a migrant body is found in Lithuania?

In Lithuania around 30 migrants have been reported missing, while several have died in Poland and Belarus.

One volunteer at Sienos Grupe, a Lithuanian humanitarian organisation, told Euronews how the body of one failed asylum seeker – someone whose application was rejected but still remains in a country – was repatriated from Lithuania.

From the beginning, they said it was chaotic, wishing to stay anonymous.

“We didn’t know who exactly we were talking to when people reached. There was a boyfriend. There was a family back home in Africa. It was very messy,” they explained.

Friends of the deceased eventually stepped in as translators and organisers, while other humanitarian organisations got involved. Their body was eventually repatriated, but only after a lengthy process that cost massive amounts of money and effort.

Though support was out there, the aid worker worried for families who faced language barriers lacked the resources or did know which institutions to contact to find out about deceased loved ones.

“The situation is weird, to say the least,” they said, claiming it was unclear how authorities helped repatriate migrant bodies or if a formal system existed. 

Citing the case of a dead man from India, who was found on the Lithuania-Belarus border in April, they explained: “We have no idea how he is represented, how his case is being handled, we don’t know if the family receives any kind of aid to repatriate his body.”

“Maybe they are doing stuff behind our backs. But I feel like a lot of the time when the state is doing something good they want people to know.”

Sanooja praised the Lithuanian authorities, Sienos Grupe and the Lithuanian Red Cross who “gave their full support” and were “very kind”, as she tried to lay her husband to rest. 

Several dead migrants – including children – have been buried in Lithuania at the expense of the state because relatives could neither come nor collect their bodies, a Lithuanian Red Cross Restoring Family Links coordinator said in a statement sent to Euronews.

However, the Lithuanian Interior Ministry did not answer Euronews’ request for information about whether it helps send migrants’s bodies home or covers the cost. 

They also did not disclose how people can check if a body has been recovered or if officials attempt to find a person’s relatives if their remains are unclaimed.

“If state border guards discover human remains at the border, regardless of gender, age or other circumstances, they shall immediately secure the scene and call the police,” Lithuania’s border guard told Euronews.

For the Sienos Grupe volunteer, this ambiguity about what happens to migrants in death reflects a wider issue about how they are viewed in life.

“There’s a lack of care and dehumanisation of these people,” they told Euronews, suggesting caring about their bodies could fix this. 

“Death is universal for all of us as people, it is something we all experience, we all bury our dead. It’s holy… If we care about their bodies, then we should care about migrants and should start preventing their deaths at the border.”

“If we keep this situation low key and act like it is just a body and not a human with a world inside of themselves, a past, future, maybe children, someone who was loved, then it’s easy to brush everything under the rug.”

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Amateur videos show Turkish police violence against African migrants

Amateur videos sent to the FRANCE 24 Observers team show police in Turkey stopping and questioning African migrants as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration. The videos, sent in by migrants from Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea and Angola, show officers shouting at the migrants and in some cases using physical violence against them. A Senegalese man seen in one of the videos being slapped by a police officer told the FRANCE 24 Observers he was in Turkey legally.

Issued on: Modified:

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Turkish authorities launched the crackdown at the beginning of July. Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said in an interview published July 9 that fighting illegal immigration is one of his main priorities, and that police in Istanbul and all of Turkey’s 81 provinces were intensifying their efforts to stop and detain people in the country illegally.

In Istanbul, police on July 4 started a series of evening and nighttime sweeps focusing on entertainment venues and public spaces. They reported detaining 3,535 people in the first week on suspicion of entering Turkey illegally, working without authorisation, or overstaying their visas.

Videos sent to The Observers by African migrants living in Turkey suggest that the police conduct is often violent and discriminatory.  

One video sent by migrants from Senegal and Guinea shows the police pinning down an African man in the middle of a crowd. The officers were not wearing uniforms, but they had handcuffs on them. The victim asked for his phone several times which angered the policeman holding him down. The officer shouted at him and then slapped him.

 


In this video, sent by African migrants to the France 24 Observers via WhatsApp and also posted on Twitter, a Senegalese hair salon owner is seen being slapped by a Turkish police officer after being stopped for an immigration check. The Senegalese man told the France 24 Observers his residency permit was being renewed.

 

 

 

The incident took place in Istanbul on July 19. By using Google Maps imagery, the Observers team managed to determine that it took place at the entrance to the underground mall AVM. Several Western African migrants living in Istanbul confirmed the location. 

The surrounding neighbourhood, Aksaray, is known for the abundance of African-run clothes shops and markets. 

‘Every time policemen see me they ask for my papers’

The Observers team managed to identify and contact the man seen in the video: Mohamed Preira is originally from Senegal, he moved to Turkey in 2019 and now owns a hair salon in Aksaray. He said he was on his way to his salon when he was stopped by the police. He told them he did not have a residency permit on him because it was being renewed. 

They took my phone, my money. They put me in a car and drove me to a spot where they let me go. Even they themselves know that they don’t have the right to arrest me. I can’t even file a complaint against them.

I filed my documents [to renew my residency status] and I was given a receipt. I am in the process of getting the documents so I have the right to live here. 

It’s not the first time I’ve been stopped. Every time policemen see me they ask for my papers. But these policemen were just racist. Now my whole body hurts. 

I have my own hair salon in Istanbul. I pay my rent. But they still harass me. It’s gotten worse. There are more and more check-ups. Now I’m thinking of going back to Senegal. Living in another country without peace, without money, it’s too hard.

The Observers received multiple videos showing the use of force by the police. One of the videos, also posted on Twitter, shows two uniformed policemen holding an African migrant while a third officer can be seen pushing his head downwards. As they walk him away, the third policeman apparently mocks the victim, clapping in his face. 

Several African migrants told The Observers that the incident took place in the Esenyurt neighbourhood of Istanbul. Satellite imagery appears to confirm the location, but the FRANCE 24 Observers team was unable to contact the man who was detained.

‘We were treated like criminals for not having the papers they refused to give us’

In November 2022 a report by Human Rights Watch found that migrants detained in Turkey without papers were often held in overcrowded detention centres, with inadequate access to legal support and their families. 

“Cédric,” a Cameroonian man who spoke to the FRANCE 24 Observers on condition of anonymity, was arrested in Istanbul in December 2022 while awaiting an update of his residency status. He provided the following account: 

There were 12 of us being held in rooms designed for six people. We were supposed to have the right to talk to our families, but they took our phones. The conditions were horrible. I saw a lot of suicides. We were treated like criminals for not having the papers they refused to give us. They don’t let you have your own lawyers. They only allow you to see their lawyers.

Cédric said he was allowed to leave the centre after two months and was given a document that only allowed him to live in Bartin, a small town 400km from Istanbul. But he didn’t stay: “There were no opportunities there and the people were racist, so I went back to Istanbul.”

‘Migrants of all nationalities face many human rights violations’

Mahmut Kaçan, a Turkish lawyer specialised in migration, says the country’s immigration system has become more restrictive in the past two years. 

For the past two years, whether you are a regular or an irregular migrant, asylum applications have not been accepted

In the past few years, and during the [May 2023] elections there has been a debate. The current government as well as the opposition claim that they will deport all refugees. 

Migrants of all nationalities face many human rights violations. I receive such complaints but since they are not properly registered, they are not able to file complaints and contact NGOs.



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Video: The ‘hunt’ for Haitian migrants continues in the Dominican Republic

A video of a young child hanging from the arms of a detained Haitian woman through the barred door of an immigration control truck in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was published in early June. The country’s migration director later dismissed the agent seen in the video. According to human rights groups, Haitians regularly face violent and arbitrary arrests. Every month, thousands of them are deported, despite calls from the UN to halt these forced removals.

Issued on:

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In early June, videos taken in the Dominican Republic’s capital Santo Domingo began circulating on Twitter. They show a young child hanging from the arms of a detained woman through the barred door of an immigration control truck, while an immigration agent simply watches. The vehicle then drives off.


Vidéo tournée à Saint-Domingue, en République dominicaine, début juin.

On social media, some said they believed the incident was an “isolated case”. Others made racist comments towards Haitians in the Dominican Republic. But many Internet users were also shocked by the disturbing scene.


Another video filmed in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, in early June, showing the same incident.

In the face of criticism, the Dominican Republic’s migration director said that the immigration agent seen in the video had been dismissed, pointing to a “lack of tact” and “arbitrary behaviour” on his part.

The migration department also told the Observers team that the child in the video was returned to his mother “less than 23 metres away from the place where the video was taken”, and that the woman, “who has irregular status”, had not been deported to Haiti, “for humanitarian reasons”.

“The whole team should have been punished”

Manuel Maria Mercedes, from the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH-RD), a Dominican NGO, told us that more should have been done.

The decision to fire the immigration agent was taken to give them a good image, both nationally and internationally, because the scene shocked people. But this agent was not alone: the whole team with him should have been punished. What’s more, according to our information, the woman and her child were sent back to Haiti.

Thousands of Haitians deported every month, against UN advice

Around half a million Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, but many of them are undocumented or have irregular status.

Every month, thousands of Haitians are deported. Between 12 and 19 June, 4,973 Haitians were deported from the Dominican Republic, despite the calls of the UN to halt these forced removals because of the security, humanitarian, political and economic crisis in Haiti (watch our report “Haiti: In the grip of the gangs” below).

“Haïti: In the grip of the gangs”, an investigation by the FRANCE 24 Observers. © Observers

Human rights groups such as CNDH-RD have also criticised the violent and arbitrary nature of the arrests, as they don’t only affect people in irregular situations.

“Sometimes, people are arrested simply because they’re black”

When migration officers arrive at the places where Haitians live, they stand on street corners and arrest everyone who passes by, regardless of their status, sometimes just because they have black skin. Then they take them to centres, and they are deported from there. Sometimes they arrest mothers without giving them time to look for their children. This has meant that more than 500 children are alone in the Dominican Republic, without their parents.

Concerning deportations, the government has launched a witch-hunt, disregarding international agreements, the Constitution and the law on migration. We are not opposed to deportations, but they must be carried out in accordance with the rule of law.

@imigranhaitienenrd

malgre dam nan endispoze neg pa bal regle anyen pou yo nn kettt mesye Dirijan yo di on bgy pou peyi a nn mesye 🥺🥺🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️

♬ son original – IMIGRAN HAITI RD


Video showing a woman being put into a van by immigration agents. It seems that she had lost consciousness before.

“This situation can be partly explained by the anti-Haitian discourse in the Dominican Republic”

Edwin Paraison, the Executive Director of the Zile Foundation, another Dominican organisation, has similar views.

Recently, we saw a man being manhandled and thrown into a van [see video below]: a priori, he was just a tourist. [Our editors were unable to verify this information from an independent source.]

Haitians living in Canada or the United States are frequently arrested when they travel to the Dominican Republic as tourists. Many no longer travel to Haiti because of the crisis, and so they travel to the Dominican Republic to see their relatives who have stayed behind. At the end of 2022, the American embassy issued a warning to African-American citizens about arrests based on their skin colour.

In 2021, there was also a scandal involving pregnant Haitian women who were arrested in hospitals and deported.


Communiqué From The Haitian Embassy In The Dominican Republic In 2021, Concerning Pregnant Women Sent Back To Haiti.

For over a year now, the police and military have also been involved in migration operations. This is problematic because they are not trained to deal with these matters… In addition to unjustified jostling and beatings, Haitians told us that soldiers had also stolen money and mobile phones when entering their homes.

Another problem is that migration officers sometimes demand money from arrested Haitians to free them, between 2,000 and 2,500 pesos [between 32 and 40 euros], inside the lorries.

In my opinion, this situation can be partly explained by the existence of an anti-Haitian discourse in the country among certain politicians, even though Haitian labour is vital in the agro-industry, construction, etc. For example, some people think that Haitians will end up outnumbering Dominicans. This view has gained ground in recent years and is putting the government under pressure, preventing it from managing the migration issue in a pragmatic and supportive way.

The Dominican Republic has already been seriously criticised on the international stage in the past. In 1937, for example, there was a massacre of Haitians. [More than 20,000 of them were killed after the Dominican president decided to eliminate those working on the country’s plantations.] Another example: in 2013, the Constitutional Court decided to withdraw Dominican nationality from people born between 1929 and 2013 to foreign parents.

Meanwhile, the Dominican government has said each country’s migration policy should be “the responsibility of each government” and that it does not want to be the “solution” to all of “Haiti’s problems”.



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Footage shows sub-Saharan African migrants being attacked and expelled over 48 hours in Tunisia

During the night of July 3, Tunisians attacked the homes of sub-Saharan migrants in Sfax, the country’s second-largest city. The violence was sparked by the death of a Tunisian, blamed on three sub-Saharan Africans. Footage filmed by the assailants and residents shows the outbreak of violence. The police then picked up many of the migrants and abandoned them in the desert.

Tarak Mahdi, a Tunisian Member of Parliament, live-streamed and published the aftermath of an altercation between a Tunisian man and three others, who he said were sub-Saharan migrants in the city of Sfax. 

“Some Africans stabbed a man this evening,” he said to the camera. He then shows the body of a man lying on the pavement, blood running down the road. A woman comes from the end of the street and cries, “My son!” 

Mahdi explained that the man is in a critical condition, calling on the police to intervene immediately

“The Africans who stabbed him have escaped, so everyone needs to get involved.” 

Screenshot of the video posted live on Facebook by Tarak Mahdi on July 3 at 11:54pm. © Tarak Mahdi

The FRANCE 24 Observers team was able to verify around about a dozen videos filmed and shared online on this shocking night

Another video filmed at the same location shows uniformed National Guard officers and civilians questioning several Black men, who are then loaded into official vehicles. There is another crowd of young men there, some armed with rods. 


Later that evening, police vans were on patrol in Tunisia’s second largest city Sfax, where the incident took place. Videos filmed by local residents show police raids in various parts of the city, with crowds of Tunisians watching on. 

The footage below shows crowds of young men watching the police raid on a road linking the district of Sakiet Ezzit to Sakiet Eddaier (in the northeast of Sfax). Some had even climbed onto the roofs and walls of nearby houses. In the street, several official vans were parked, flashing lights, including one belonging to the special intervention brigade.


The crowd starts singing a verse of the national anthem, and applauds and encourages the gendarmes who maintain a security cordon between the crowd and the migrants being arrested. “There are over 200 people here”, says the person filming the video. 

Another video filmed on the notorious night in the al-Habib district of Sfax shows crowds applauding an arrest operation carried out by Tunisian police in the homes of sub-Saharan migrants.

The person filming exclaims, “Long live Tunisia! Sfax is not a colony. Get out, get out! Go home!” 

The crowd repeats a chant often used by football fans in defiance of the police: “We don’t f*ck with the police, we’re only afraid of God.” The chant their way of supporting those taking justice into their own hands.


‘All the Black people who passed by this area were stopped or beaten up’

On July 4, Guillaume (not his real name), a migrant from a sub-Saharan African country, reached out to the FRANCE 24 Observers team. He lives in Gremda. He lives in Gremda and states that on July 3 homes in his neighbourhood were attacked by groups of Tunisian men. 

He managed to escape and says he’s now in a safe place. He recounted what happened in shaky voice messages.

I can’t even raise my voice where I am talking to you at the moment. I’m very scared, many of my loved ones have been taken away by the National Guard in Sfax. 

On July 3, in Gremda, Tunisians came armed with rods and machetes [Editor’s note: several eyewitness accounts mention the use of knives, though the FRANCE 24 Observers team has been unable to verify this with visual evidence], during the night at the Café des Chinois [known to be a gathering place for sub-Saharans in Sfax]. All the Black people who passed by this area were stopped or beat up. They wounded several people with knives too.


Another of our sub-Saharan Observers in Sfax sent us this video filmed on the night of July 4, 2023. It shows a migrant’s flat being ransacked by a group of Tunisians who throw their belongings to the ground.

We couldn’t film the attack on July 4th because we were too scared. The assailants threw stones at our heads. They broke into our neighbour’s house, smashed her furniture and windows, searched the house and smashed the TV. They also set fire to the house. When the sub-Saharan neighbours called the police, they turned up but took away the sub-Saharan people who were outside, without checking their papers or letting them collect their passports. 

Luckily, I was able to escape into the night, I ran, I passed a car leaving the city and the driver let me in. I still can’t believe I’m alive.


A video filmed on the evening of July 3, 2023 by our Ivorian Observer Samuel (not his real name) in the Ghroubi district of Sfax shows a flat where several migrants were living completely ransacked. He claims that locals armed with knives broke into the flat.

‘They dropped us off in the mountains, then the police and the buses turned back’

An unknown number of sub-Saharan Africans were loaded onto buses. On the morning of July 5, our Observer Alpha (not his real name), from Guinea, sent us messages from “the desert” where he was dropped off. He had travelled all night in a bus accompanied by two other vehicles belonging to the Sfax regional urban transport company SORETRAS, also carrying sub-Saharan Africans.


Our Guinean Observer sent us this video on the morning of July 5 around 8:30am. After having travelled by bus all night, the police left them near the Algerian border. We have not heard from them since that morning.

They put us on a bus at around 10:30pm, then we took the road out of Sfax. At 11:45pm, the bus stopped 10km from the centre of Sfax, and we stopped on the road to pick up even more people. The bus was packed, and a second bus joined the convoy. They checked people in the street, and as soon as they saw a black person they made him get on the bus. They didn’t ask for any papers or residence permits making them get on. 

I said to the policeman before I got on the bus: “We’ve heard that you’re sending us to the Libyan desert or to Algeria”. The policeman told me no, that they were going to send us to a safe place. But this morning we were dropped off on what looks more like the Algerian border. We were dropped off in the mountains, and then the police vehicles and buses turned back. We’re walking towards the border, hoping to run into Algerian border guards or to enter Algerian territory.

Read moreThe growing xenophobic violence against sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia

‘If you make the mistake of hanging around near the police station, they’ll send you into the desert’

Those who escaped the police are now in hiding at home, like Paul (not his real name), a Cameroonian resident of the Ennasria district in the centre of Sfax.

This morning [July 5], at the post office in Ennasria, in the centre of Sfax, people who had come to withdraw their money via Western Union were taken away: the police came and rounded everyone up.  

But as I live in the city centre, I’m a little relieved: at least here, it’s not as easy for the Tunisian residents to make a lot of noise as in the outlying areas.

You have to stay in your house; outside you can be stopped by the police at any time. If you make the mistake of hanging around near the police station, they’ll send you into the desert.

The police do nothing to look for the attackers, absolutely nothing.


This video filmed by our Observer Paul on the morning of July 4 shows three police vehicles parked outside the post office in Sfax. Uniformed and plainclothes men stop a group of sub-Saharans before making them get into one of the vehicles.

According to the spokesperson for the Sfax justice ministry, 34 migrants were arrested the night of July 3 following altercations with residents in the Gremda district, where the initial murder took place. 

Also, four Tunisians were taken into custody for having given shelter to illegal migrants in Sfax. To date, none of the Tunisians involved in the violence have been arrested or questioned.

Read moreXenophobia grows amidst raids and repeated attacks on sub-Saharan Africans in Tunisia

On July 5, the public prosecutor’s office issued a warrant for the detention of a further 33 illegal sub-Saharan migrants at the Sfax court. 

These raids followed two shocking waves of xenophobic violence and deportations of sub-Saharan migrants. In February 2023, a speech by Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed prompted accusations of racism and xenophobia targeting sub-Saharan Africans in particular.

Read more‘They spit on us’: What’s really going on in the El Ouardia migrant centre in Tunis

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