The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s news as it unfolded.
Netanyahu, Lapid under fire for refugee stance
Opposition head Isaac Herzog hits back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hours after Netanyahu indicated Israel would not be able to take in Syrian refugees.
“You’ve forgotten what it is to be Jewish. Refugees. Pursued. The prime minister of the Jewish state doesn’t close his heart nor his borders when people are escaping their pursuers, with their babies in their hands,” Herzog writes on Facebook.
He also calls on Netanyahu to emulate former prime minister Menachem Begin, who let 66 Vietnamese boat people escaping persecution settle in Israel in 1977.
The conversation about Israel letting refugees in was sparked by a statement by Herzog Saturday night saying the country should contribute to easing the crisis.
Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, who criticized the idea, has also come under fire from radio presenter Gabi Gazit, who told the son of former minister Tommy Lapid to remember the history of his father escaping Budapest.
“Your father and my father asked themselves for years how and why the world was silent when Hitler tried to kill the Jewish people, and our fathers died before they were able to see the new refugees at the Budapest train station,” he writes. “Yes, the very same station where your father and my father tried 70 years to catch a train from to freedom, and only three years later there was the world war. Their train made it out of Budapest and took them to the Land of Israel.”
On the other side of the debate, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked dismisses the idea of letting in Syrian refugees.
“Of course Israel cannot absorb huge numbers of refugees from Syria,” she says, according to Israel National News. “The country can provide humanitarian aid to any wounded person who comes, but absorbing refugees should be done in Turkey and Jordan and not Israel.”
Thousands protest Christian school funding
Police say about 2,500 striking demonstrators have gathered outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem to protest against the slashing of funds for Christian schools.
Christian school administrators accuse Israel of cutting their funding as a tactic to pressure them to join the Israeli public school system — a move they say would interfere with the schools’ Christian values and high academic achievements.
Some 33,000 students in 47 schools have been on strike since the school year began on September 1. Arab lawmakers joined students, parents and principals at Sunday’s demonstration.
Government okays plan to clear Haifa’s air
Residents of the bay city of Haifa will be able to breathe a little easier after the government has approved a NIS 115 million plan to ease air pollution in the area.
The project calls for air pollution to be halved by 2018 in the city and region, which is home to a number of highly polluting plants and boasts some of the worst air in the country.
Because of the city’s location ringed by the Carmel mountain range, much of the air pollution is trapped over the city and unable to disperse, exacerbating the problem. A study published earlier this year showed increased rates of pollution-caused cancer in the city, and led the mayor to issue stop work orders to several factories.
The plan also includes approval to build an ammonia plant in the south of the country instead of in the Haifa bay area, as had been originally planned.
Cabinet okays envoys Regev to UK, Dayan to Brazil
The cabinet has also approved a number of diplomatic appointments, including posting former Netanyahu flack and native Aussie Mark Regev to serve as ambassador to Albion, replacing Daniel Taub in London.
Among the other appointments are former Yesha settlers council official Dani Dayan, originally from Argentina, to be ambassador to Brazil.
Rouhani urges Europe to do more for refugees
Without the slightest tinge of irony, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has praised European Union countries helping the refugees streaming into the 28-nation bloc and urged others to step up their efforts.
The remarks, published on Rouhani’s website today, come during a meeting with the new Hungarian ambassador in Tehran and were seen as indirect criticism of Budapest’s handling of the situation.
“We are happy that some European countries made positive efforts to help refugees and we hope other European countries that do not have this position compensate on shortcomings.”
Iran is a major patron of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been responsible for much of the violence that has driven more than 4 million Syrians to flee the country.
— AP with attitude by Times of Israel
Minister Regev says Syrian migrants should look elsewhere
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev has also decided to jump into the palaver over whether Israel should take in Syrian refugees and unsurprisingly, the woman who called African migrants a “cancer” isn’t a fan.
“I agree with what the prime minister said this morning and want to clarify — Israel is not apathetic, we take care of the injured and we are speaking with prime ministers in Africa and giving aid packages to help take care of the problem,” she says, according to news site Maariv.
“That being said, there is only one Jewish state in the world, a small state, with many complex challenges. We need to protect our borders from infiltrators and from terror, that’s our first responsibility.”
In 2012, Regev called African migrants a cancer at a rally in south Tel Aviv. She later apologized.
Pope tells parishes to take in 1 refugee family each
Pope Francis is calling on every Catholic parish in Europe to take in a refugee family, saying the Vatican’s two parishes will lead by example.
Calling for a “concrete gesture” ahead of a Jubilee Year of Mercy starting in December, the pope urges “every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe (to) take in a family.”
“Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of asylum-seekers fleeing death (as) victims of war and hunger who are hoping to start a new life, the gospel calls on us and asks us to be the neighbor of the smallest and the most abandoned, to give them concrete hope,” he says while giving the Angelus blessing in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome.
Israel says it captured Gazan jihadist posing as teacher
A Gaza man accused of carrying out attacks against Israelis during last summer’s war in the Strip has been arrested, Israeli officials have just okayed for publication.
According to a statement from the Shin Bet security service, Ihab Saed Abd Alrahman Abu Naghal was arrested in July while trying to make his way from Gaza to Qatar pretending to be a teacher going to a teachers’ conference.
The Israeli officials accuse Abu Naghal of being part of the Popular Resistance Committees, a salafist terror group which has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State.
According to the release, Abu Naghal, 27, said he was trained as a suicide bomber and was sent on a mission to blow up a bus at the Israel-Egypt border near Eilat in 2014, but was unsuccessful.
He admitted to fighting alongside Hamas against Israel during Operation Protective Edge in northern Gaza.
He was indicted on August 30 on 12 counts, including attempted murder and “contact with an outside agent.”
“The investigation of Abu Naghal proves, once again, how Hamas tries to cynically take advantage of Israeli sensitivities to humanitarian needs,” the Shin Bet says in a statement.
Forgotten Shoah victims finally buried in France
The remains of Holocaust victims stored for decades in a French medical school have at last been laid to rest.
Several hundred people have gathered for a sober burial ceremony in eastern France for the victims.
The corpses of dozens of people were sent to the anatomy institute at the University of Strasbourg for Nazi research. Some remains were buried after the war, but a few were saved and even put on display for what were described as scientific purposes.
Then they were apparently forgotten — until July, when researcher Raphael Toledano and the institute’s director discovered jars and test tubes in a locked room.
The remains belonged to multiple people, and only one has been definitively identified: Menachem Taffem, a Polish Jew deported to Auschwitz and gassed to death.
Egypt stops 228 migrants from sailing for Europe
The Egyptian navy has seized three fishing boats in the Mediterranean that were carrying 228 migrants trying to make their way to Europe, the military says.
Seventeen crew members were arrested during the operation off the coast of second city Alexandria, the military says on its Facebook page.
It does not disclose the identities of the migrants or of the crew, but says they were taken to a naval base in Alexandria. It also does not say when the operation took place.
Pictures posted online by the military show men, who appeared to be African, sitting in a docked boat or on the ground of what seemed to be a harbor.
The military says a navy patrol spotted the fishing boats off the Alexandria coast, stopped the vessels and boarded them for inspection.
4-year-old hit by a car, fighting for life
A 4-year-old boy is in critical condition after being struck by a car in Jerusalem. The collision occurred on Shaarei Torah Street in the capital’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood.
He was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kקrem hospital.
Refugees on trains bring back harsh memories for Germans
Israeli politicians aren’t the only ones seeing parallels between the Holocaust and the refugee crisis in Europe.
Eliezer Noy, head of Germany’s Ezer Mizion organization, tells Israel’s Walla News that seeing refugees arriving in Munich on trains dredged up harsh memories.
“In Jewish eyes it looks very bad, There are separate carraiages for migrants and they are very full. There were almost 1,000 people on one train. They descended from the train with a lot of personal belongings and bags, and that was reminiscent of pictures from Jewish history. Dozens of German police are escorting them and taking them to be checked out and from there to temporary camps,” he says.
Colin Powell backs nuke deal
As US President Barack Obama hunts down the last few votes of support for his Iran nuclear deal, he is getting a smidgen of backing from an old military hand Sunday: Gen. Colin Powell.
Powell, a Republican who has been out of politics for over a decade, tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the agreement is a good deal.
— NBC News PR (@NBCNewsPR) September 6, 2015
4-year-old hit by car in Jerusalem dies
A 4-year-old boy struck by a car in Jerusalem has died.
The boy was hit in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of the capital and was rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition. His brother was lightly injured in the incident.
Egypt explains why it jailed Al-Jazeera staff
An Egyptian court has released the detailed ruling on why it sentenced three Al-Jazeera English journalists to three years in prison for airing what it described as “false news,” a case long criticized by press freedom advocates and others.
The ruling, published by the state news agency MENA on Sunday, says the three men — Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed — essentially were serving the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, which authorities consider a terrorist organization.
The ruling also says the three were biased in their reporting, operated without press credentials and secretly worked in at a hotel in central Cairo without a permit.
Mohammed and Fahmy are now imprisoned, while Greste previously was deported. The journalists and the network deny the accusations.
Nusra operative arrested over Syria Druze attack
Syrian authorities have detained a member of Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front who admitted the group’s responsibility for a double bomb attack in the country’s Druze heartland, state media says.
The arrested man, named as Al-Wafed Abu Tarabeh, reportedly also confessed the group was behind attacks on government property in Suweida after the bombings, which killed 31 people.
“Authorities in Suweida today arrested the terrorist Al-Wafed Abu Tarabeh, who confessed to responsibility for the two terrorist bombings on Friday,” state news agency SANA reports.
State television identifies Abu Tarabeh as a member of Al-Nusra.
“The terrorist also confessed to participation in the attacks on the military police and security branches… in addition to acts of vandalism and theft in Suweida,” SANA says.
Twin bomb attacks hit Suweida on Friday night, killing 31 people, including prominent Druze cleric and regime critic Sheikh Wahid al-Balous.
After the attacks, angry crowds including armed men attacked two security buildings in the southwestern city, killing at least six regime security personnel, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Cheney points at ‘weak’ Obama for Syrian refugee mess
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, former vice president Dick Cheney blames Obama for the refugee crisis in Europe, saying his dealing with Syria “from a position of weakness” led to the current state.
“I think that what’s happened is that he has created a huge vacuum,” he says, according to an account posted by The Hill. “I think when the US played a major role in the region, it would have been much easier to manage this situation.”
Cheney accuses Obama of never having a military option against Bashar Assad on the table, giving the dictator free reign to destroy Syria.
“He’s talked about it repeatedly, but no one has ever believed him,” he says.
Sarah Palin tells immigrants to speak American
Having immigrants to the US know English has long been a bread and butter issue among the nativists of the Republican party, but former Alaska governor Sara Palin just did them one better, demanding on national TV that immigrants “speak American.”
Palin, whose folksy style produced no shortage of gaffes when she ran for veep in 2008, tells CNN’s “State of the Union” that while she respects Jeb Bush’s ability to speak and campaign in Spanish, she also agrees with Donald Trump on some aspects of immigration policy.
“I think we can send a message and say, ‘You want to be in America? A, you’d better be here legally or you’re out of here. B, when you’re here, let’s speak American,” she says, according to a report in The Hill. “I mean that’s what’s — let’s speak English and that’s a kind of a unifying aspect of the nation is the language that is understood by all.”
Iraq uses F-16s against jihadists for first time
Iraq has put F-16 warplanes acquired from the United States into action against the Islamic State group for the first time, the commander of the air force says.
“Fifteen airstrikes were carried out in the past four days,” Staff Lieutenant General Anwar Hama Amin tells AFP.
“Smart weapons” were used in the strikes, Amin says, without specifying the type.
Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi tells a news conference that the strikes had achieved “important results” and that the jets will have “an impact on the conduct of operations in the future.”
Amin tells the news conference that the F-16 strikes had taken place in Salaheddin and Kirkuk provinces, north of Baghdad.
The first four Iraqi F-16s arrived from the United States in mid-July, out of a total of 36 Washington has agreed to sell to Baghdad.
Anti-Nazi punk song sees resurgence in migrant-friendly Germany
Germans are once again rocking out to a an anti-Nazi punk song that topped the country’s charts two decades ago, riding a wave of pro-migrant sentiment.
The ditty, “Cry for love” by die Artze, pokes fun at neo-Nazis for their supposed toughness, and first became popular in the mid-90s.
“Your violence is only a silent cry for love,
your combat boots long for tenderness,
you have never learned to articulate yourself,
and your parents never had time for you … ohhh… asshole,” the band sings.
According to the Washington Post, the song made a comeback after a music teacher encouraged people to download and play the song as a protest against anti-migrant right-wingers.
Shaked: A few refugees will turn into droves
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked tells Army Radio that opposition calls for the country to let in Syrian refugees are “irresponsible.”
While professing sympathy for the plight of the millions of Syrians being forced out their homes by civil war and the jihadist takeover of the country, she says she fears a snowball effect if Israel allows any refugees in.
“We can’t absorb a small group. The second we start to let them in, it will devolve very quickly into thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands,” she says.
“The reality is that millions of Syrian refugees are being housed in Jordan, Turkey and European countries. There’s no such thing as a few dozen, like Begin let in from Vietnam, or a few hundred. This is demagoguery.”
Leading Jewish lawmaker Wasserman Schultz backs Iran deal
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee head, has announced her support for the Iran nuke deal.
Wasserman Schultz, a Jewish lawmaker from Florida, says the decision to endorse the agreement was the most difficult one she has made in nearly 23 years in elected office.
She writes in The Miami Herald that while she has concerns about the agreement, the deal “provides the best chance to ensure” security for the US, Israel and other allies.
“This agreement is not perfect. But I join many in the belief that with complex, multilateral, nuclear non-proliferation negotiations with inherent geopolitical implications for the entire world, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ deal,” she writes.
“Under the agreement Iran will not be able to produce a nuclear bomb for at least 10-15 years,” she says, while the US and its allies “will be able to more closely concentrate on stopping Iran’s terrorist activity.”
The White House has clinched the necessary Senate votes to ensure that Congress will uphold the deal even if US President Barack Obama ends up having to veto a disapproval resolution set for a vote in the week ahead.
— with AP
Netanyahu points to refugee crisis to tout Jordan border fence
Work has just begun on a planned 30-kilometer border fence being put up by Israel on its border with Jordan in the south of the country, Channel 2 reports.
The fence will run from Eilat north to the Samar sand dunes and will join a series of other fences Israel has on borders around the country, including a recently completed fence on the Egyptian frontier.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on a visit to the south, points to the European refugee crisis as proof for why Israel needs the fence.
“We see today what happens to nations that lost control over their borders,” he says.
Terrorism and illegal migration show how important it is to secure the country’s borders, he adds.
Speaking hours after putting the kibosh on Israel granting Syrian refugees asylum, he defends his position saying that Israel does have “empathy toward the great humanitarian catastrophe occurring around us.”
“Israel was the first country that provided humanitarian aid to the victims of the wars in Syria,” he says.
Jerusalem also gives aid to Africa, he adds, but reiterates that Israel is a small country that cannot take in more refugees.
The budget for the new fence, which is to be finished within less than two years, is NIS 280 million.
On Thursday, Reuters reported that Hungary and Bulgaria had turned to Israel for help building a border fence to keep migrants and refugees out.
— Raphael Ahren contributed
Le Pen: Photo of dead boy making Europeans ‘feel guilty’
Popular French far right leader Marine Le Pen, pressing her anti-immigration platform, says the widely shared photo of a dead Syrian refugee is being used to make Europeans “feel guilty.”
In a sweeping speech at a National Front party gathering in Marseille, Le Pen decries what she calls a “migratory submersion” and European leaders being lax toward migrants.
She criticizes “politicians who throw the death of a child in your face,” referring to the photo of 3-year-old Aylan, who drowned trying to reach Greek islands last week.
The image has drawn greater attention to the plight of Syrians refugees.
The weekend gathering laid out policies before regional elections in December, after Le Pen kicked her father Jean-Marie Le Pen out of the party he founded.
Berlin to EU: Don’t overstretch our generosity to migrants
Germany has warned other European Union members that they must abide by the bloc’s rules on processing asylum seekers.
The country’s interior ministry says the so-called Dublin rules, which require asylum requests to be processed in the first EU country they arrive in, are still valid.
It says Germany’s decision to allow thousands of migrants in Hungary to travel onward to Germany was an exception and “this does not render the Dublin rules inactive.”
The ministry cautioned in a statement Sunday that “big willingness to help, which Germany has shown in the last weeks and months, should not be overstretched.”
It added that “only if this is ensured can Germany continue to do its part to tackle the large number of asylum seekers” coming to Europe.
‘Queen’s vagina’ defiled with anti-Semitic graffiti
A controversial sculpture by artist Anish Kapoor on display in the gardens of France’s Palace of Versailles, and which has become known as the “Queen‘s Vagina,” has been vandalized for the second time.
Officially known as “Dirty Corner,” the giant steel funnel that Kapoor himself has described as “very sexual” was covered in anti-Semitic graffiti in white paint, says Versailles president Catherine Pegard.
Phrases such as “Queen sacrificed, twice insulted” and “the second rape of the nation by deviant Jewish activism” covers the sculpture by the British-Indian artist.
“This act of intolerable violence against the work of an international artists shocks and saddens me,” Pegard tells journalists after inspecting the damage.
The 200-foot-long, 33-foot-high steel-and-rock abstract sculpture is set up in the garden aimed directly at the royal chateau, which attracts five million tourists a year.
Kapoor has described the piece as “the vagina of a queen who is taking power.”
Report calls for 6 senior cops to be removed over parade attack
A final version of an internal police probe into failings that led to a fatal stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade on July 30 has been released, and calls for six senior officers to be removed from their posts and another four to be reprimanded.
Among those to be fired over the attack are the heads of the Moriah police substation, the head of the Jerusalem intelligence branch of the police, the head of the operations branch for the area of the parade, the head of intelligence for the Moriah substation, the officer in charge of securing part of the heavily guarded parade route and the head of the coordination division.
One more police officer, who was in charge of guarding the area of the route where the stabbing took place, will also be removed.
On July 30, religious zealot Yishai Schlissel was able to reprise a stabbing attack from 10 years earlier just weeks after being released from prison, killing 16-year-old Shira Banki and injuring six others, despite a heavy police presence at the parade.
The report also calls for lighter reprimands to be handed to four more officials, including Jerusalem police chief Chico Edrey, the head of the Zion substation, and two others.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says he accepts the report in full.
“The death of Shira Banki and the injuries to the marchers was a severe incident that could have been prevented, and so we need to probe and unfortunately there need to be personal consequences, even if they are unprecedented in scope,” he says in a statement.
State asks High Court to allow Knesset vote on gas deal
The government has turned to the High Court to ask that it not issue an injunction on a Knesset vote planned for tomorrow on a deal with an energy consortium to develop Israel’s natural gas fields, Israel Radio reports.
The gas deal outline was rushed to a vote late last month after the discovery of a massive gas field in Egypt, which could undercut Israel’s own gas finds.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel had petitioned the court to stop the vote until Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon receives a legal opinion on which parts of the gas deal he needs to refrain from over conflicts of interests, according to the report.
No clear majority for gas deal vote — report
Channel 2 TV reports that there is currently a 56-56 tie in the Knesset between those for and against giving the government the ability to broker a gas field development deal and override the Israel Antitrust Authority.
According to the station, Yisrael Beytenu has chosen not to support the coalition, and scuttlebutt suggests that the Joint (Arab) List asked for guarantees regarding building in the north and south of the country in exchange for their support, which Likud is not ready to deal out.
Netanyahu has canceled votes on the issue at the last minute in the past when it became clear he did not have the needed majority.
NH feels bern as Sanders jumps out to lead vs. Clinton
Once thought to be a dark horse candidate, Bernie Sanders has leaped to a 9-point lead over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in New Hampshire in a new poll.
The NBC/Marist survey shows Sanders with 41-percent support compared to 32% for Clinton and 16% for Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to declare his candidacy.
The numbers are a turnaround from a similar poll in July, which showed Clinton with 42% to Sanders’s 32%.
In Iowa, Clinton still has the lead on Sanders, but it’s been cut from 24 points in July to 11 in September.
The New Hampshire poll was conducted among 966 registered voters with a ± 3.2 margin of error. In Iowa, 998 people were polled with a ± 3.1 margin of error.
French minister: We are for labeling, against boycott
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron says Paris backs EU plans to label products from Israeli settlements but opposes any boycott of Israel.
“The French and European diplomatic position is clear and has not changed and will not change,” he tells reporters at the start of a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The labeling plan has been blasted by Israel, which says it is the target of an international delegitimization campaign.
But Macron is adamant that France opposes campaigns such as that of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
“We are against any practice such as that of the BDS,” he says.
Turkey PM slams ‘Christian fortress of Europe’ over migrants
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is criticizing the “ridiculously small” share of refugees the EU is accepting, labeling the continent the “Christian fortress of Europe.”
Turkey had taken more than two million people alone from war-torn Syria and Iraq, creating “a buffer zone between the chaos and Europe,” Davutoglu writes for Monday’s edition of Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily.
He criticizes as low the financial contribution the EU has made in support of Turkey’s effort, according to excerpts pre-released in German by the conservative newspaper Sunday.
There seemed to be the “convenient reflex” to load the refugee problems on the shoulders of Turkey and to build a “Christian fortress of Europe,” he writes.
Hungary allowing migrants to move west on trains
Hungary is permitting migrants to use normal train services to move closer to Western Europe through its porous western border, abandoning visa checks that it previously used to prevent them from easily reaching Austria and Germany on public transportation.
The unexpected move comes just a day after Hungary, buckling from the pressure of a buildup of thousands of asylum seekers at Budapest’s main railway station and on its major highway, shuttled several thousand people to its border with Austria using a fleet of buses.
Austria and Germany, the migrants’ predominant destination, agreed to take the busloads as an exceptional measure but emphasized that Hungary must handle the cases of other asylum seekers on its own soil.
Hungary likewise billed the bus convoy as a once-only opportunity for migrants to avoid its own asylum system.
Israel spanks Finland 79-66 in EuroBasket play
Israel has crushed Finland’s basketball team 79-66 in EuroBasket Group play. Lior Eliyahu led the good guys with 22 points.
On Saturday, Israel surprised Russia with a 76-73 win. Israel is tied with Poland at the top of Group A. The team will next face off against cellar-dwelling Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday.
In other sports news, Israel’s soccer team is tied 0-0 in a thrilling Euro 2016 qualifier match against Wales.
Israel, Wales tie 0-0 in gripping Euro 2016 soccer qualifier
Israel’s soccer game against Wales has ended in a shock 0-0 tie. Nobody scored in 90 minutes of play, plus several minutes of injury time. A good time was had by all.
Israel will next face off against Cyprus on October 10.
MK demands urgent meeting over Christian school funding
Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit has written a letter to the Knesset Education Committee requesting an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis over Christian school funding.
The country’s Roman Catholic-run system of 47 schools, serving some 33,000 mostly Arab Muslim students, has faced deep budget cuts, and administrators have refused to open the school year in protest.
Earlier in the day, some 2,500 people rallied outside the Prime Minister’s Office demanding a solution to the issue.
Many crossing into Europe pretending to be Syrian, officials claim
Many of the migrants flooding into Europe are hiding their true place of origin and claiming to be Syrian.
Documents scattered only meters from Serbia’s border with Hungary provide evidence that many of the migrants flooding Europe to escape war or poverty are scrapping their true nationalities and likely assuming new ones, just as they enter the European Union.
A Pakistani identity card is seen in the bushes, a Bangladeshi one in a cornfield. A torn Iraqi driver’s license bearing the photo of a man with a Saddam-style mustache, another one with a scarfed woman displaying a shy smile.
Many of those travelers believe that using a fake document — or having none at all — gives them a better chance of receiving asylum in Germany and other western European states.
That’s because the surest route to asylum is to be a refugee from war and not an economic migrant fleeing poverty. That fact has led to a huge influx of people claiming to be Syrian.
Serbian border police say that 90 percent of those arriving from Macedonia, some 3,000 a day, claim they are Syrian, although they have no documents to prove it. The so-called Balkan corridor for the migrant flight starts in Turkey, then goes through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the European Union in Hungary.
“You can see that something is fishy when most of those who cross into Serbia enter January 1 as the date of their birth,” says border police officer Miroslav Jovic. “Guess that’s the first date that comes to their mind.”