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TOPIC: refugee

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Far From Home, Never To Return: With Those Who Fled Mariupol's Hell

Almost immediately after the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mariupol found itself under siege. After weeks of devastating battle, the Russians took over the city. Ukrainian news analysis and opinion website Livy Bereg spoke to Inna Shumurtova, a member of the city's Jewish community, about her escape from Mariupol.

On Feb. 24, 2022, Inna Shumurtova, a resident of Mariupol, was awakened by a 4:30 am phone call from a friend in a nearby city.

"Inna, it's war," he said.

"What war?" Inna replied, still half-asleep. "Call me in three hours; I'm still sleeping."

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After dozing off for another half an hour, she woke up and checked the news feed, only to learn about the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. On the same day, the Russian siege of Mariupol began.

Inna Shumurtova lived in the center of the Black Sea city. She worked for a public organization focusing on HIV prevention, belonged to the city’s Jewish community, and actively engaged in human rights activities where she supported the LGBT community. She is also the daughter of a soldier currently serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The Russian invasion drastically altered her life. She witnessed death and suffering, going through what she describes as hell. Miraculously, she was able to leave the Russia-occupied city. Her recollections provide evidence of the existence of Russian fascism and the ruthless nature of the aggressor. Inna witnessed bodies being denied proper burial, corpses scattered in yards, Russian soldiers defecating in water and food containers, and the denial of food to the people. Additionally, she went through filtration camps in Donbas and Rostov, where she and her mother, who suffers from diabetes, was subjected to interrogation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

Inna Shumurtova's story is not merely an individual's account; it paints a vivid picture of the hellish conditions that the Russian army inflicted upon Mariupol.

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Worldcrunch Magazine #41 — Death Trap At Sea: An Exclusive Die Welt Investigation Into The Migrant Tragedy In Greek Waters

July 10 - July 16, 2023

This is the latest edition of Worldcrunch Magazine, a selection of our best articles of the week from the best international journalists, produced exclusively in English for Worldcrunch readers.


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Polish Woman Killed On Greek Island: A Textbook Case Of How Racism And Sexism Are Triggered

The death of a 27-year-old hotel worker on the island of Kos, and the arrest of a suspect from Bangladesh, has set off a firestorm back in Poland that mixes anti-immigrant contempt with victim blaming against the murdered woman for "asking for it."

KOS — It's the kind of tragic story that, sadly, regularly fills the criminal ledgers of local police precincts around the world.

Anastazja Rubińska, 27, went missing on June 12 on the Greek island of Kos, after she'd gone to get a drink during a day off from the local hotel where she worked. She never made it home alive.

A seasonal tourism worker from the southwestern Polish city of Wrocław, Rubińska had sent a message to her longtime live-in boyfriend, asking him to pick her up because she didn’t feel safe, and shared her location. But soon after, she sent a message that everything instead was under control, that she had drunk too much, and that someone would drive her home.

When she didn't return home by the next morning, the boyfriend alerted the local Greek authorities, who launched an investigation. Police confirmed that Rubińska had last been seen at a bar with a group of five men. One of them, a 32 year-old from Bangladesh, now identified as Salahuddin S., who would later confess that he had sexually assaulted Rubińska. At his home, police say they discovered a shirt with blond hair and blood stains belonging to Rubińska, and noted that the man was covered in scratches.

On June 18th, six days after the victim had gone missing, her body was found, about a kilometer from the residence of Salahuddin S. The presumed cause of her death was asphyxiation, and there were also signs pointing to sexual assault.

The murder was bound to quickly turn into a cause célèbre back in Poland.

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How Prigozhin's Presence Is Feeding Tensions At Belarus-Poland Border

Described as everything from a "migrant invasion" to a "hybrid attack", the crisis along Poland's border with Belarus has been heating up for the past two months. But the conflict has now been made worse by the arrival of the Wagner mercenary grouop in Belarus. This leaves migrants, many fleeing conflict elsewhere, stuck between the two borders.

This article has been updated on July 3, 2023 at 12:00

BIAŁYSTOK — Polish authorities had already been arming themselves for months in preparation for provocations and hybrid attacks from across the Belarusian border. But for the past week,tensions have multiplied since the Russian owner of the Wagner group — Yevgeny Prigozhin — arrived in Belarus after his aborted coup attempt.

On Sunday, Poland decided to send 500 more police from its counter-terrorism and riot control divisions to the border, citing the increased level of border crossing attempts, as well as the relocation of Wagner Group members.

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Prigozhin's presence in Belarus followed negotiations with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, which provided that he would be exiled from Russia, rather than prosecuted for his attempted armed rebellion last week. Other members of the Wagner group are also reportedly settling in Belarus, though none have appeared in public for the past 10 days.

The increased geopolitical tensions in Belarus “could mark a new phase of hybrid warfare, a phase much more difficult than the one we have faced so far,” Poland's deputy prime minister and longtime ruling party leader Jarosław Kaczyński told audiences at a press conference last week. "Decisions have been made to strengthen our defense on the eastern border.”

Kaczyński's sentiments were echoed by Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak, who told Polish state broadcaster TVP that Poland "can expect hybrid attacks with the participation of these people", leading him and other senior government officials to reinforce security along the Polish border.

Polish inhabitants along the border fear that the zone may be closed once again, as it was when the crisis began, and Poland declared a state of emergency. Meanwhile, refugees, many from the war-torn areas of the Middle East, are stuck between two armies, fighting to survive.

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Catarina Reis and Inês Leote

Pascoal: Born In Portugal, Citizen Of Nowhere

Born 32 years ago in Portugal to Angolan refugee parents, Pascoal has never been granted Portuguese nationality. Too many people like him live under the threat of being deported to a faraway country they’ve never known.

LISBON – When a team from the European Commission visited Cova da Moura, a suburb of Lisbon, in September, they challenged young musicians in the area to rap about what Europe meant to them. As a reward for their work, the Commission offered a trip to Brussels. But three of the musicians, Pascoal, Hélio, and Heidir, couldn’t even think about it: they didn’t have passports or any form of national ID.

Adriano Malalane, an attorney, says that in the case of Pascoal, “a residence permit is the most he can aim for.”

Pascoal’s birth certificate – the only ID document he has – proves that he was born in the heart of Lisbon. And yet, Portugal does not recognize him as a citizen, and so he lacks any form of national identification

The lack of sufficient ID documents has blocked him from everything from school trips, to sports, to work — or at least, made it very, very difficult.

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Carolina Drüten

A Rare Look At Europe's Most Violent Border Crossing

Many migrants want to enter the EU via the Greece-Turkey border. Time and again, it is the scene of violence, and the EU border guard Frontex is also said to be involved. Die Welt managed to visit a place that is off-limits for journalists and usually remains hidden from the public.

EVROS — A photo, 92 naked migrants, some of them wounded. Did Turkey force people across the land border into Greece? That's what the Greek government is saying. Is Greece covering up its own crimes against refugees with the photo? That is what Ankara claims.

The border river Evros is one of the routes for migrants who want to go to the EU – and time and again the scene of violence and violations of the law. The EU-funded border protection agency Frontex is said to be involved in these activities. On the other side of the border, in Turkey, migrants are used as leverage.

The Greek-Turkish land border made headlines in early 2020 after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unilaterally declared it open. Thousands of migrants rushed to Greece; Greek border guards fended them off with stun grenades and tear gas.

At the time, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said two sentences essential to understanding his government's migration policy: "This is no longer a refugee problem. This is a blatant attempt by Turkey to use desperate people to push its geopolitical agenda."

And according to the Greeks, when asymmetric warfare is the problem, humanitarian aid is not the answer. Defense is.

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Lena Gontarek

When Ukrainian Children And Teachers Come Together In A Polish School

After fleeing the war, many Ukrainian teachers have found new jobs in Poland. But their work involves more than just teaching — they're helping Ukrainian children adapt to a whole new life.

The bell rings for Polish lesson in the Primary School 34 in the city of Lublin in southeastern Poland. There are 25 students, five of whom are children from Ukraine who came here after the outbreak of the war with Russia.

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Olga is in the classroom alongside the teacher. She used to teach English in Ukraine, but she is now employed in Poland as a teacher's assistant, thanks to the "Cash for Work" program of the Polish Centre for International Aid.

Today's lesson is on The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The children read paragraphs and analyze them.

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Sofiia Kyslytska

Sofiia’s Story: An Escape From Kyiv, A Springtime Dream

This is how Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine has looked to one 16-year-old high school senior from Kyiv, the daughter of Worldcrunch contributor Anna Akage.

My name is Sofiia, I’m 16 and I’m from Kyiv. Like my friends, I had plans … and dreams too. I believed in the future.

And then came 5 a.m. on February 24, and nothing would ever be the same.

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Suddenly, and for the next two weeks, everything around me became very specific and elementary: how many kilometers, how many people, how much gasoline. Life became like simple mathematics — and math never fails.

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Negar Jokar

How Tehran Hunts Down Iranian Refugees In Turkey

Iran's clerical regime is able to sabotage asylum applications, prompt deportations and, failing that, beat and murder Iranian political refugees in Turkey.

LONDON — After Iran's 1979 revolution, Iranians with different views to those of the new, clerical regime felt obliged to leave the country. Over the years, a range of events and factors included prison executions in the 1980s and the suppression of student protests in Tehran in 1999. The crushing of mass protests in 2009, then in late 2017, in mid-2018 and in late 2019 to 2020 prompted more Iranians to flee.

One place that has become a temporary refuge for them is Turkey. Currently, it hosts around 40,000 Iranian refugees, many of whom have spent years of their lives here, hoping in fact to move on and settle in another country as a safe haven.

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Alfonso Masoliver

Immigrants Don't Drive Up Crime: Here Are The Facts

Crunch the numbers, or just look around...and we see that immigrants, wherever they may come from, are not a disproportionate cause of crime or cultural degradation across Europe.

Standing outside Hamburg's Arts and Crafts Museum, I observe a little the traffic and bustle of this historic German port, home to two million people. I notice to my right two German women sitting on the grass in the Carl Legien Platz, gaunt but eager as they prepare themselves a syringe full of some drug. To the left, sitting on the museum's steps, is an African man, wearing a pretty checked shirt and white cap. He wipes his face in despair, trying to decipher a manual for a gadget or contraption.

Once they have had their injection, the women recline to enjoy the buzz, until two policemen arrive. They dryly nod at the African and ask the women for their ID. I observed with fascination and must say, no travel journalist should omit to record these little bits of reality. They are as informative to readers as sight-seeing recommendations or dining tips.

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Bruno Philip

An Old War Is Rekindled On The Myanmar-Thailand Border

For the first time in 20 years, Myanmar regime fighter jets dropped bombs on territory partly controlled by the KNU, an armed group that has been fighting the central government for seven decades and bears the name of a large ethnic minority, the Karen.

MAE SAM LAEP — Seen from the Thai side of the Salouen River, the Burmese army's outpost does not look like much: on the top of a bare hilltop, several shabby bunkers, plank walls and zinc roofs are lined up. There's no living soul, apparently, except for the crowing of a rooster whose stubborn cackle intermittently reaches the other bank. A little higher up, balancing on the void stands the silhouette of a building that looks like a Buddhist pagoda. Strangely enough, a red flag is flying there. The Thai police say that it is a sign of war for their Burmese neighbors.

This isolated outpost is not just a godforsaken hole stunned by the April heat, locked in the torpor of a foggy afternoon awaiting the monsoon rains. It is instead a military barracks of the Tatmadaw (official armed forces of Myanmar), the same forces whose soldiers have in just two months massacred more than half a thousand demonstrators opposing the Feb. 1 military coup.

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Isabelle Mandraud

After Terror Attack, France Asks If It Has A 'Chechen Problem'

A wave of immigrants arrived in France from Chechnya during the early 2000s after the wars with Russia. A minority of this Muslim community has been radicalized, including an 18-year-old who beheaded a French schoolteacher in October.

Along the Seine, halfway between the Brie and Gâtinais rivers, Djamboulat Souleimanov tries to squeeze his large frame into a seat at a picnic table, his right leg a little stretched out to the side to spare a stiff knee. It's an old injury that this former Chechen military commander is still dealing with. It's a physical memento of a past that he now evokes in broad strokes. It starts with Souleimanov as a history student at the University of Grozny, his studies completed on the eve of the first war that pitted this small Caucasian territory with a Muslim majority against the great might of Russia. December 1994, he served at the head of a battalion of 280 fighters, before he had a brief appointment — barely six months— as ambassador to Malaysia for an equally short-lived independent Chechnya. Because then came the second war, even more deadly, that began in 1999 when he had only just begun to work as a teacher. And finally, he left.

At the time, Djambulat Souleimanov couldn't find anywhere safe. Neither in Qatar, which he left after the assassination of a fellow countryman, nor in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he had to change apartment every day. He finally decided on France, where he arrived with his wife and five children in 2006, taking advantage of a stopover at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport.

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