This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Asylum/Assimilation : Culture Clashes

“We’ve always had individual cases. But here we have a larger group doing it almost in an organized way. It’s a completely new level of obscenity."
"You have a large group of boys surrounding the girls. They pretend to dance. They come closer and closer. Then they start touching their breasts and genitals. In some cases in combination with theft."
"Of course you can say we should have [alerted the public. But during this period we had 170,000 visitors in five days. So the situation wasn’t judged as something where the public needed to be informed."
Roger Ticoalu, head, Stockholm events department, Sweden
German authorities say more than 500 assaults were reported in the western city of Cologne on New Year's Eve (AFP Photo/Markus Boehm)
Sound familiar? A little like New Year's eve in Cologne, where women reported being sexually molested and police and other authorities were reluctant to admit that the perpetrators were largely recent entrants to Germany, migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea...young men who gathered in what was described as a thousand-strong, breaking up into smaller groups to surround, isolate and sexually harass women. Not that this was exclusive to Germany; it happened in Finland and in Austria as well as Sweden.

And not that it hasn't been known and reported that with the influx of unaccompanied young men from the Middle East and Africa the incidence of sexual harassment against women has skyrocketed. These crimes target refugee women and children as well as the indigenous population of the countries of Europe where migrants have sought haven. Germany has been unable to adequately protect women refugees and their children because of the sheer overwhelming numbers and a lack of accommodation to separate the men from the women.
A man holds up a sign reading, "No violence against women" as he takes part in a demonstration in front of the cathedral in Cologne, western Germany, on January 9, 2015 where sexual assaults in a crowd of migrants took place on New Year's Eve (AFP Photo/Roberto Pfeil)
Why this should be surprising is the surprise itself. Given that female refugees, in the minority with their children or singly, among the larger influx of men, have themselves suffered insufferable sexual harassment. Women recount how they have suffered, being forced to make themselves available for sex when they run short of money to pay traffickers. Women report being raped by European guards and police as they make their way across Europe to their hoped-for destinations.

Women forced by their husbands to provide sex to enable their families to get on with their journeys are then held in contempt by their husbands who viciously maltreat them because they have become defiled. One woman, speaking of the accommodation provided for women in Berlin shelters said "There is no lock or key or anything." Esraa al-Horani feels fortunate that "I've only been beaten and robbed".

Desperately living through war and violence, exploitative smugglers and dreadfully dangerous voyages while contemplating an uncertain future in a foreign land, thousands of migrant women, many with children, continue to arrive in Europe only to face more challenges to their existence. Women report suffering violence from fellow refugees, from smugglers, from male family members and European police.

The lead psychotherapist at a west Berlin centre states that of the 44 women in her care, from teens to elderly-mature women, most have suffered sexual violence. So, says, Susanne Hohne "We go to our own therapists for supervision twice a month to cope with what we hear", speaking of her 18 staff members who themselves suffer trauma at a remove, doing their professional best to aid migrant women to recover from their dreadful experiences.

One 30-year-old Syrian woman with four children entered Germany last year with her family. Her husband had no more money to pay the smuggler when they arrived in Bulgaria, offering his wife instead as payment and she was repeatedly raped over a three-month period. Which led him finally to begin abusing his wife. "What her husband made her do ended up tainting his honour. She became the guilty party", explained Ms. Hohne.

She and her children have been given asylum in Berlin and her husband, elsewhere in Germany has had a restraining order imposed against him. "The priority has been to avoid homelessness. But an environment that inadvertently facilitates violence is a risk factor. We cannot allow standards to slip", advised Heike Rabe, gender expert at the German Institute for Human Rights.

"Everybody knows there are two ways of paying the smugglers. With money or with your body", said Samar, 35, formerly employed by the Syrian Finance Ministry and robbed in Izmir, Turkey as she was boarding a boat to Greece with her young daughters. She had refused the smuggler's demand for sex, worked in Turkey a year to save the money she needed to continue her journey. "Almost all men in the world are bad", she said.

In west Berlin, Ms. Hohne doing her best to meet the needs of all the refugees and asylum-seekers as a professional, sympathizes with the women and wishes things were otherwise. "We mustn't forget many of the men are traumatized too", she states. "There is no black and white, good and evil. If we want to help the women, we need to help the men, too."

She speaks, of course, of helping men who derive from a culture that demeans women and preys on their vulnerabilities.

Germany asylum requests

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