September 2009


A clothing maker with a vast garment factory in downtown Los Angeles is firing about 1,800 immigrant employees in the coming days — more than a quarter of its workforce — after a federal investigation turned up irregularities in the identity documents the workers presented when they were hired.

The firings at the company, American Apparel, have become a showcase for the Obama administration’s effort to reduce illegal immigration by forcing employers to dismiss unauthorized workers rather than through workplace raids. The firings, however, have divided opinion in California over the fallout of the new approach, especially at a time of record joblessness in the state and with a major, well-regarded employer as a target.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, called the dismissals “devastating,” and his office has insisted that the federal government should focus on employers that exploit their workers. American Apparel has been lauded by city officials and business leaders for paying well above the garment industry standard, offering health benefits and not long ago giving $18 million in stock to its workers.

But opponents of illegal immigration, including Representative Brian P. Bilbray, a Republican from San Diego who is chairman of a House caucus that opposes efforts to extend legal status to illegal immigrants, back the enforcement effort. They say American Apparel is typical of many companies that have “become addicted to illegal labor,” in Mr. Bilbray’s words.

“Of course it’s a good idea,” Mr. Bilbray said of the crackdown. “They seem to think that somehow the law doesn’t matter, that crossing the line from legal to illegal is not a big deal.”

In July, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, opened audits of employment records similar to the one at American Apparel at 654 companies around the country. John T. Morton, who, as assistant secretary of homeland security, runs ICE, said the audits covered all types of employers with immigrant workers, including many like American Apparel that were not shadowy sweatshops or serial labor code violators.

The investigation at American Apparel was started 17 months ago, under President George W. Bush. Obama administration officials point out that they have not followed the Bush pattern of concluding such investigations with a mass round-up of workers. Those raids drew criticism for damaging businesses and dividing immigrant families.

Immigration officials said they would now focus on employers, primarily wielding the threat of civil complaints and fines, instead of raids and worker deportation. “Now all manner of companies face the very real possibility that the government, using our basic civil powers, is going to come knocking on the door,” Mr. Morton said. The goal, he said, is to create “a truly national deterrent” to hiring unauthorized labor that would “change the practices of American employers as a class.”

The employees being fired from American Apparel could not resolve discrepancies discovered by investigators in documents they presented at hiring and federal social security or immigration records — probably because the documents were fake. Peter Schey, a lawyer for American Apparel, said that ICE had cited deficiencies in its record keeping, but the authorities had not accused the company of knowingly hiring unauthorized workers. A fine threatened by the agency was withdrawn, Mr. Schey said.

After months of discussions with ICE officials, the company moved on its own to terminate the workers because, Mr. Schey said, federal guidelines for such cases are “in a shambles.” The Bush administration proposed rules for employers to follow when workers’ documents do not match, but a federal court halted the effort and the Obama administration decided to abandon it.

With its bright-pink, seven-story sewing plant in the center of Los Angeles, American Apparel is one of the biggest manufacturing employers in the city, and makes a selling point of the “Made in U.S.A.” labels in its racy T-shirts and miniskirts. Dov Charney, the company’s chief executive, has campaigned, in T-shirt logos and eye-catching advertisements, to “legalize L.A.,” by granting legal status to illegal immigrants, a policy President Obama supports.

Since the audit began, Mr. Charney has treaded carefully, eager to show that his publicly traded company is obeying the law, and to reassure investors that the loss of so many workers will not damage the business, since production has slowed already with the recession. But Mr. Charney is also questioning why the authorities made a target of his company. Over the summer he joined his workers in a street protest against the firings. Because the immigration investigation is still underway, Mr. Charney declined to be interviewed for this article but did respond in an e-mail message.

The firings “will not help the economy, will not make us safer,” he said. “No matter how we choose to define or label them,” he said, illegal immigrants “are hard-working, taxpaying workers.” [taxpaying?]

More HERE

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Fearful that they’re losing ground on immigration and health care, a group of House Democrats is pushing back and arguing that any health care bill should extend to all legal immigrants and allow illegal immigrants some access. The Democrats, trying to stiffen their party’s spines on the contentious issue, say it’s unfair to bar illegal immigrants from paying their own way in a government-sponsored exchange. Legal immigrants, they say, regardless of how long they’ve been in the United States, should be able to get government-subsidized health care if they meet the other eligibility requirements.

“Legal permanent residents should be able to purchase their plans, and they should also be eligible for subsidies if they need it. Undocumented, if they can afford it, should be able to buy their own private plans. It keeps them out of the emergency room,” said Rep. Michael M. Honda, California Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Mr. Honda was joined by more than 20 of his colleagues in two letters laying out the demands.

Coverage for immigrants is one of the thorniest issues in the health care debate, and one many Democratic leaders would like to avoid. But immigrant rights groups and the Democrats who sent the letters say they have to take a stand now. President Obama has said he does not want health care proposals to cover illegal immigrants. The bill drawn up by Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, excludes illegal immigrants from his proposed health care exchange.

Mr. Honda and his allies, though, say illegal immigrants should be allowed to pay for insurance if they can afford it, even if it comes through a government-established exchange. As a generally young, healthy part of the population, illegal immigrants could help reduce overall costs for those who buy into health exchange plans, the lawmakers said. The Democrats’ letters, however, do not issue ultimatums or threaten to withhold support for the bills if their requests aren’t met.

The National Council of La Raza launched its own “flood their voice mail” campaign last week to put pressure on Mr. Baucus to expand coverage in his proposal to include all legal immigrants and to drop verification language in the legislation that would prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining coverage.

Mr. Honda told The Washington Times that he’s not pushing for illegal immigrants to gain access to taxpayer-subsidized benefits. “That’s an argument that’s been done already,” he said.

Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, said proposals that include government coverage for illegal immigrants leave him incredulous. “If anybody can, with a straight face, advocate that we should provide health insurance for people who broke into our country, broke our law and for the most part are criminals, I don’t know where they ever would draw the line,” he said. Mr. King, who opposes Democrats’ health care plans in general, said illegal immigrant access in legislation “would be a poison pill that would cause health care to go down” to defeat.

Twenty-nine Democrats signed on to the letter on legal immigrants, while 21 signed the letter on covering illegal immigrants. Although the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus signed the legal-immigrant letter in their capacity as CBC officials, they signed the other letter as individual members of Congress.

Under the 1996 welfare law overhaul, Congress restricted most federal benefits to longtime holders of green cards – those who have been in the country at least five years. But Democrats chipped away at that rule when they reauthorized the State Children’s Health Insurance Program earlier this year and allowed states to cover all immigrant children and pregnant women, regardless of how long they’ve been in the country.

In their letter, the Democrats said health care costs are much lower for legal immigrants than for native citizens. “Immigrants are part of our families, our communities, our economy, and contribute to the fabric of America,” they wrote. “It is simply wrong that their taxes would pay for public health insurance programs to which they are not allowed access.” [How many pay taxes? Very few]

SOURCE

1. Overstaying Their Welcome

Excerpt: I’m all for border fencing and the like; it’s an essential tool of national sovereignty.

But for too many politicians, and even ordinary folks, support for border security is a cop out, a substitute for thinking about the overall immigration problem, only part of which has anything to do with our border with Mexico.

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2. The Case of Hosam Maher Husein Smadi: Déjà Vu All Over Again

Excerpt: Overshadowed in the extensive national coverage of the Najibullah Zazi terror case is the case of Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year old Jordanian man arrested on Thursday, September 24, in Dallas. Smadi was taken into custody by FBI agents shortly after throwing the switch on what he believed was a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in an SUV he had parked in the basement of a 60-story Dallas office tower, in an attempt to kill thousands of people timed to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Like several other terrorists before him, Smadi apparently was a student visa overstay.

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3. The Who’s Who of Immigration Policy Making

Excerpt: Immigration policy is usually made by politicians, and not presidential ones.

As the Obama Administration shows signs of tackling the subject, it might be helpful to sketch the players who have strongly influenced the immigration policy scene in recent years, which I do in this the first of several blogs on the subject.

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The Who’s Who of Immigration Policy Making – the Senate Democrats

Excerpt: There are five Democrats and four Republicans on the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, which is part of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

All five Democrats drew grades of F on the immigration policy votes followed by Numbers USA, the restrictionist organization.

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The Who’s Who of Immigration Policy Making – the House Democrats

Excerpt: A congressional subcommittee may sound like a minor entity, but when it comes to lawmaking it is where much of the action takes place. Most of the provisions of any bill emerging from a subcommittee are likely to be in place when the parent body, the House or the Senate, takes final action on it.

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The Who’s Who of Immigration Policy Making – the Senate Republicans

Excerpt: There are four Republicans, compared to five Democrats, on the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, a subset of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

While the Republicans serving on the comparable body in the House of Representatives, according to the nose counts of Numbers USA, are solidly and consistently in the restrictionist camp, there are some major disputes among the Senate subcommittee Republicans. Two of these Senators get solid A+ ratings from Numbers USA, while the other two -– both from border states — have recent scores of B+ and C-.

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The Who’s Who of Immigration Policy Making – the House Republicans

Excerpt: The six Republican members of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law can be expected to struggle, probably in vain, to bring some restraint into proposed immigration legislation. The subcommittee is part of the House Judiciary Committee.

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4. E-Verify and IMAGE – Stimulating the Economy

Excerpt: The federal government has spent huge amounts to stimulate the American economy. The theory is that massive government spending programs will put people back to work and increase consumer spending which is a major driver of economic activity in the United States.

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5. Virginia Governor’s Race and Immigration Enforcement

Excerpt: Candidates in the race for governor of Virginia differ on the issue of state and local enforcement relating to illegal and criminal aliens. Former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell supports statewide involvement in the 287(g) program. Democratic State Sen. Creigh Deeds is unenthusiastic and vague. Republican McDonnell has endorsed Virginia State Police usage of this proven, useful tool for ferreting out foreign lawbreakers living among us, many of whom threaten public safety.

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6. Citizen? What’s That?

Excerpt: The head of the Census Bureau said this week that trying to identify the illegal aliens in the upcoming census would not be practical. And he’s right — it’s not just that the forms have already been printed, but who’s going to honestly answer that they’re illegal?

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7. Another Warning on Amnesty

Excerpt: There was an important vote on a minor procedural matter Wednesday on the floor of the House. Arizona’s Rep. Raul Grijalva, a leftist open-borders guy (and I don’t mean liberal — MEChA member, 100% rating from the ACLU, etc.) sponsored a bill to create new national-park area along the border. Republicans in committee smelled a rat and attempted to insert an amendment that stipulated that the Border Patrol would be permitted to operate in the new area, but were rebuffed; the amendment’s needed because the Department of Interior has reportedly interfered with efforts to patrol border lands under its jurisdiction. Well, Republicans decided to try to pull a procedural motion in the full House to force the issue, assuming they’d lose but at least be able to make a political point.

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8. Why Is the U.S. National Soccer Team So ‘American?’

Excerpt: If soccer is the world’s sport, and America is the world’s leading beacon for immigrants around the globe, why aren’t immigrants making a bigger impact playing soccer for the Stars and Stripes? Consider the paucity of foreign born players on the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team. The team draws from a player pool of fifty eight men, only three (5%) of whom were born outside the U.S. The women’s national team has no foreign born players in its player pool.

The above is a press release dated Sept. 22 from Center for Immigration Studies. 1522 K St. NW, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 466-8185 fax: (202) 466-8076. For more information, contact Steven Camarota at (202) 466-8185 or sac@cis.org.

The unprecedented numbers of foreigners that Brits see among them are no mirage. The agency is not dispelling myths. It is trying to dispel reality. The British government would serve the country better by doing more about the half-a-million “asylum seekers” who have been denied asylum by the courts but who are still in the country. Try to dispel that reality!

At the end of a week in which the government’s most senior lawyer, the attorney general Baroness Scotland, was embarrassed by revelations that her Tongan housekeeper was working illegally in the UK, confidence in the country’s immigration system could be at rock bottom.

So some may find it reassuring to learn that the government agency charged with protecting the UK’s borders has embarked on an extraordinary PR blitz to give the public a taste of what can happen to those who fall foul of fortress Britain.

A series of UK Border Agency roadshows at country fairs around southern England have seen children fingerprinted, pensioners handcuffed and families locked into immigration service “cell vans” as part of a drive to dispel what it says are “myths that surround immigration issues”.

The initiative, featured in Interact, the newsletter for UKBA stakeholders, describes events at the Kent and New Forest and Hampshire county shows in which members of the public were briefly locked in “cell vans”, placed in handcuffs and dressed up as “arrest officers” by UKBA staff keen to show they mean business. Children made “fingerprint paintings”.

The newsletter concedes that “immigration staff knew they would have to overcome initial hesitation from the public” to being confronted by “fully-kitted arrest team officers”.

However it concludes the roadshows were a “great opportunity to explain the importance of our work”. According to the UKBA, at the end of the shows, 239 visitors had improved their opinion of the work of the service, while 13 said it was the same.

But last night migrant support groups questioned the rationale behind the PR campaign. “We appreciate UK immigration officers do a hard job in difficult circumstances,” said a spokesman for Refugee Action. “But we remain to be convinced the way to dispel myths about immigration is to dress members of the immigration service up like extras from The Sweeney whilst running around fingerprinting children, handcuffing pensioners and locking families in arrest vans.”

SOURCE

Comment from Australia by economist ROSS GITTINS below. Most of what he says applies to all developed countries. The focus on GDP per capita rather than on gross GDP is particularly pertinent. British studies have also shown that immigration is of no economic benefit to the average person already in the country

SO YOU think Australia has escaped a ”technical” recession? Actually, if you look at what’s happened to real gross domestic product per person, it has fallen in three of the past five quarters. Over the past 15 months it has contracted by 1.5 per cent. In other words, remarkably rapid growth in Australia’s population has been a little-acknowledged factor helping to hold up the economy.

We learnt last week that, during the year to March, our population grew by 2.1 per cent, its fastest in almost 40 years. Although our low birth rate is up a bit, almost two-thirds of that growth came from net immigration. This net inflow of almost 280,000 people is 20 per cent higher than the previous record year. And when Treasury plugged a much higher level of immigration into its projections for 2050, it foresaw a population of 35 million, 6.5 million more than it was expecting just three years ago.

So, is a rapidly growing population just what we need to give us a healthy economy? That’s what almost all business people, politicians and economists would tell you, but I wouldn’t be so sure of it.

If you believe immigration adds more to the demand for labour than it adds to the supply of labour, then the present rapid growth in immigration is helping to limit the rise in unemployment. That’s nice, but we should be wary of the almost universal tendency to focus on the overall growth in GDP rather than the growth in GDP per person. Why? Because it’s only when GDP’s growing faster than the population that our material standard of living is rising.

You have to ask yourself what’s so good about rapid population growth. From a narrow materialistic point of view, immigration-fed growth in the economy is good only if it raises the real average incomes of the pre-existing population. And it’s debatable whether it does. If it doesn’t, we’re running a high immigration policy mainly for the benefit of the immigrants, who are able to earn more in our country than they were in their own. Which is jolly decent of us.

Of course, if you were a business person you wouldn’t care whether high immigration led to a rise in income per person. All you’re after is a bigger market because you believe it will allow you to make bigger profits. So business and its politicians and economist handmaidens believe in growth for growth’s sake. But the other point that tends to be overlooked is that when you use immigration to force the pace of economic growth, it comes with a lot more costs attached than usual.

These costs tend to be underplayed and hidden from view, partly because they’re not acknowledged in our standard measure of growth, GDP. Indeed, some costs actually show up as additions to GDP. More growth – you beauty!

GDP ignores the cost of the environmental damage done by immigration. Apart from being morally dubious, poaching skilled workers from developing countries roughly doubles their greenhouse gas emissions, in the process making it all the harder for us to achieve the necessary reduction in our emissions.

But the extra carbon emissions are just one of the environmental costs. A total projected population increase of 13 million over the next 40 years does raise the question of whether we’ll exceed our ecosystem’s carrying capacity. Is the additional land use sustainable? Here’s a country that badly stuffed up its river and underground water systems, and as we speak is demonstrating a serious lack of political will to fix the problem, telling itself an extra 13 million people will be no problem.

And what about the cost of all the roads, hospitals, schools, police stations and other infrastructure we’ll need to build to accommodate a 65 per cent increase in the population? All that spending will add to growth as measured by GDP, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come at considerable cost to taxpayers.

The decision to ramp up immigration levels is made by the ”Feds”, but the responsibility for providing the extra infrastructure will be left to the less-than-competent state governments. Any failure on their part to cough up the money and rise to the challenge will generate real but unacknowledged costs to you and me.

SOURCE. Another current article hostile to Australia’s high rate of immigration can be found here. The author writes from a Greenie perspective.

What a horrible image of anarchy we saw at the San Diego border crossing this week when three vans with an estimated 70 illegal aliens tried to crash their way through hundreds of innocent passengers in dozens of vehicles.

Why did they do it? I’m willing to say that a bunch of bishops and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited them. Do you think those 70 illegal aliens would have put themselves into that situation if they knew it would be impossible to get a decent job with decent working conditions and decent benefits in the United States? Do you think they would have taken that risk if they knew that the only work they could find would be minimum wage (or less) jobs with no benefits and no legal protections because the employers are outlaws?

The SAVE Act (H.R. 3308) would require every employer in the country to use E-Verify to ensure that no illegal alien can get a new job or hold an old job. The SAVE Act would easily have passed the U.S. House of Reprentatives last year if Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) had not blocked a vote. Nearly 200 Members of both Parties co-sponsored the bill and signed a discharge petition to force a vote (short of the 218 needed) last year.

If U.S. Representatives had been forced to vote YES or NO on the SAVE Act, I have little doubt that it would have garnered pretty close to the 259 votes we won yesterday on the border security vote on the House floor (with 85 Democrats joining all the Republicans). And that is what would happen now, if Speaker Pelosi would stop blocking it.

People from other countries would stop risking their lives — and those of others — to illegally enter this country if we stopped giving away prizes to the people who make it through. Speaker Pelosi refuses to stop the danger on the border by refusing to end the constant supply of illegal foreign labor to unscrupulous employers.

And adding a kind of unholy blessing on all this risk taking, anarchy and violence on the border, we have more and more bishops of the United Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal denominations sending their voices through the international media proclaiming that illegal immigration should be rewarded with U.S. citizenship papers.

I am not calling for a muzzling of the free speech of these misguided clerics. But I do believe that their pro-amnesty rallies, resolutions and testimony create the results on the border of crying fire in a crowded theater.

SOURCE

The revolt at conditions in overflowing detention centres is causing scenes of chaos in the ‘backdoor into Europe’

Greek authorities are desperately trying to cope with a surge of migrants on to the country’s islands which has left detention centres overflowing.

Last week, amid chaotic scenes, hundreds of migrants demonstrated against “inhuman conditions” in a detention camp on Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos, in a protest that saw hunger-striking minors setting fire to mattresses and attacking guards. The clashes highlighted the rising anger on island outposts that are being overwhelmed by a double influx of holidaymakers and illegal migrants.

According to senior immigration officials, Greece has now become the frontline of migration to the EU. “Greece is Fortress Europe’s weakest link,” said one EU official, who added that for traffickers bent on ferrying human cargo to the west, its borders were like a “big open door”.

Last week in northern France, police used bulldozers to clear immigrants from the Calais camp known as the “jungle”. But the problem there is dwarfed by the unfolding drama in the Greek islands.

Mytilene, off the coast of Turkey, and other tourist magnets can receive up to 500 “illegals” a day, according to authorities, and have become the favoured entry points into Europe for thousands from Afghanistan and Iraq. “They’re coming in by the boatload from Turkey at all hours of the night and day,” said Nikoloas Zacharis, vice-prefect of Samos, another Aegean island. “It’s uncontrollable.”

Last week’s “uprising,” the latest in a series of revolts by immigrants, has provoked a huge row over Greece’s treatment of “guests” it does not want. “That children as young as 12 were on hunger strike in Greek detention is a gross indictment of the government’s failure to care for them,” said Simone Troller at Human Rights Watch.

Greece is not the only southern European country to be targeted by people smugglers. Spain, Italy and Malta have also been hit by an influx of immigrants but Greece and its islands are seen as Europe’s easiest “backdoor” entrance. Last year an estimated 150,000 migrants, mostly from Asia but also from Africa, illegally entered Greece, police say. Forced to cope with the country’s porous land borders and 18,400 kilometres of unwieldy coastline, immigration officials are overstretched.

Tensions have been exacerbated by the extraordinary risks immigrants appear willing to take to cross the border. Those from war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan have frequently put their lives in danger to make the journey either in rickety rafts or on foot across minefields that still line Greece’s northern land frontier with Turkey.

In recent years, an alarming number of pregnant women and parentless children have been among those crossing treacherous mountain passes and rough seas, according to human rights groups. Last year, as many as 3,000 minors – some of them as young as six and mostly from Afghanistan – were dumped by smugglers on remote Aegean isles.

In an attempt to staunch the human tide, Greek coastguard patrols have been equipped with high-speed boats and infrared tracking devices. France and Spain have dispatched helicopters to the area to help.

Acutely aware of the rising social tensions the influx has caused, the centre-right government, which faces an election on 4 October, has stepped up arrests with successive police sweeps in Athens’ where rising crime has, increasingly, been blamed on migrants.

The arrests followed the announcement of draconian legislation in July, which included dramatically extending the amount of time undocumented migrants can be detained. And, despite widespread protests from Greeks and migrants groups over the prospect of “migrant concentration camps” being created, the conservatives have also floated the idea of detaining “illegals” in disused military facilities.

“The situation has reached crisis proportions, partly because detention centres are now so overcrowded,” said Nikos Koplas, a lawyer who has long assisted refugees seeking asylum. “Locking them up is not the way forward. The answer lies with the EU. It’s as if Greece is becoming a depot for illegal entries from all of Asia. It needs to share the burden.”

In northern Europe capitals, where most illegal migrants head, the surge in arrivals has also caused growing consternation. Of 278 Afghan minors arrested last week in Calais, most entered Europe through Greece. Improved policing of the western Mediterranean, particularly the Canary Islands and southern Italy, has played a role. “The main effect of more efficient patrols in the western Mediterranean is that we now have more people coming through the eastern Mediterranean,” said Martin Baldwin-Edwards who runs the Mediterranean Migration Observatory at Athens’ Panteion University.

“But most of the migrants are intent on moving on. When they see that conditions are not what they like or expect, they start heading deeper into Europe. Many prefer the UK because there’s a whole mythology about it. They’ve heard from family and friends who are already there that it is a better democracy, with better conditions, plentiful jobs and fairer treatment of migrants.”

Greece’s notorious asylum process has the lowest acceptance rate in Europe. Of the 20,000 applicants last year, asylum was accorded to only 379. Immigrants invariably complain that, with a backlog of more than 30,000 cases, they have no choice but to seek asylum elsewhere in Europe. As in France, authorities in Greece have tried to solve the problem by bulldozing makeshift camps, including one in the port city of Patras that, like the “jungle”, was inhabited mostly by unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan. [The “unaccompanied minors” are often in fact young adults who claim to be minors to get better treatment]

SOURCE

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