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A blog devoted to on-the-ground reporting around the world.

Europe takes a harder line on migrants

The EU is moving away from saving lives, focusing instead on keeping newcomers out.
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The grassroots organization Voix des sans-papiers speaks out at their most recent demonstration in Brussels. The group regularly organizes protests against the criminalization of undocumented migrants. (Voix des sans-papiers/Courtesy)

NEW YORK — To the dismay of human rights advocates, Italy announced the end of its Mediterranean search-and-rescue sea mission, Mare Nostrum, in October. The year-long initiative had saved hundreds of thousands of migrants from drowning.

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In Greece, young migrants fight to be considered Greek

Children of Greek migrants still face a long road to full acceptance in the country they call home.
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Greeks and immigrants raise their painted hands during a demonstration in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on March 30, 2013, as they called for Greek citizenship for migrants' children born or raised in Greece. The Greek Council of State deemed unconstitutional a law passed almost three years ago which allowed second-generation migrants to apply for citizenship and to stand in local elections. (SAKIS MITROLIDIS /AFP/Getty Images)

ATHENS, Greece — Nikos Odubitan’s friends see him as the quintessential Greek, and not just because he has one of the most common Greek first names.

He gestures like a Greek and argues like a Greek. He uses both the slang of his generation and obscure words of ancient origin. Weaving through Athens traffic on his motorbike, he greets local business owners and the odd classmate with an informal “ελα, ρε!” which means something like, “Hey, there.”

But Odubitan is not a Greek cien and until Nov. 18, when the coalition government introduced a new bill that would change citizenship requirements, had few prospects of becoming one. Although he was born in Athens in 1981, his parents are Nigerian. As a result, he, like an estimated 200,000 others with foreign-born parents, has been effectively disqualified from citizenship. That means he can’t vote or work and travel freely within the European Union, and if he doesn’t renew his visa on time, he becomes undocumented.

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For child migrants in France, growing up could mean losing it all

Thousands of unaccompanied minors face unemployment and homelessness in their adopted country as they come of age.
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Three young boys from Eritrea cross the border between Italy and France on board a regional train, on Aug. 6, 2014, near Nice, southeastern France. Immigrant minors have the right to education and foster homes in France, but transitioning to adulthood is a challenge for young migrants. (JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP/Getty Images)

PARIS — In his other life, Juman Ahmed witnessed his father’s brutal murder in an attack that left his mother beaten and put him in the hospital for 14 months. He flew alone from Bangladesh to France on April 3, 2012, just before his 17th birthday.

When he first arrived, he was angry, confused about why he was plucked from his home and sent to a strange new country where he knew no one. A call to his mother made things clear: “I saw my husband die in front of me,” she said. She didn’t want her son to be next.

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Photographing Greece's 'lost generation'

A generation of young people has gotten stuck in Greece, their dreams to make better lives elsewhere deferred.
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Ali, 17 and from Algeria, lives in the old Columbia Records Factory in Athens. (GlobalPost)

Italian photographer Alessandro Penso is a relative newcomer to photography.

After buying an old camera at a Rome street market, Alessandro, 36, left a career in clinical psychology and began studying photojournalism at the School of Photography and Film in Rome. In 2007 he won several awards, and last year he won first place for general news photography at the World Press Photo awards. He shot the winning image at a center for refugees in Bulgaria.

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Europe’s refugee asylum systems buckling under pressure

For refugees fleeing violence and oppression, reaching Europe means facing a whole new set of challenges.
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Migrants saved during a shipwreck in the Mediterranean on Aug. 5, 2014. (Francesco Malavolta/The GroundTruth Project/GlobalPost)

ROME — Italy’s ports, overflowing with refugees escaping war and persecution, symbolize the urgency of the humanitarian crisis on Europe’s border. Yet after surviving harrowing journeys to reach Italy, few plan to stay there.

Of approximately 74,000 Syrians and Eritreans who landed in Sicily this year, less than one percent had applied for asylum in Italy by the end of November.

EU regulations theoretically require those who arrive in Europe to apply for asylum on the first soil they touch. But many migrants try to avoid regulations because most border countries, like Italy and Greece, have limited resources to absorb them. Experts say EU regulations are so loose and refugee programs so inconsistent across the 28-member bloc that many migrants are driven to evade the rules, hoping to travel to EU countries with better resettlement services and job markets.

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Smuggler gangs in the Mediterranean are big, deadly business

As the number of migrants traveling to Italy via Libya explodes, smuggling gangs stand to make a profit.

AUGUSTA, Sicily, Italy — Isma could see that the rubber dinghy he boarded with 100 other refugees was ill-equipped to carry them across the Mediterranean Sea to Sicily from the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

So it was no surprise when, only eight hours into a voyage that can take three days, the inflatable boat began to take on water. A satellite phone left behind by one of the smugglers made it possible to call the Italian coast guard for rescue before it was too late.

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America's legacy of torture

Declassified documents trace the CIA's torture program back to the 1950s, when the CIA developed a curriculum to teach Latin American militaries how to torture.
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A man holds a poster accusing CIA of torturing Iraqi war prisoners as he protests outside the White House in Washington DC on March 19, 2013, the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

Torture has been the dirty secret of US foreign policy for years.

Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s numbing report of the CIA’s brutal torture practices against terrorist suspects since 9-11 has provoked a drama of would-be soul searching just two weeks before Christmas.

As the political talk shows fill with experts debating the logic of imposed suffering, we have heard no great voice of outrage from bishops, pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders.

Are they co-opted in sins of silence?

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Egypt’s ‘deep state’ proves victorious

Analysis: By stifling dissent and restoring strong ties with the US, Egypt's military government is as strong as ever.
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Egyptian demonstrators hold up a poster of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a rally in Cairo in support of Sisi's decree aimed at "protecting public installations and utilities from terrorist attacks" on November 04, 2014. Sisi enacted a decree allowing military trials for civilians suspected of attacking state infrastructure, after a string of deadly strikes on soldiers. (Mohamed al-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: This piece is the first in a continuing series by Ahmed Aboulenein and Ruth Michaelson exploring the power of the Egyptian military.

CAIRO — When former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was cleared of all charges last week, it marked an end to the democratic hopes of Tahrir Square and seemed to embody the resilience of Egypt’s “deep state.”

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Ukraine's familiar fight for a national identity

Analysis: A century after World War I began, old European enmities are shaping the present conflict with Russia.
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Candles form the shape of Ukraine's national coat of arms as thousands gathered in Kiev's Independence Square on Nov. 21, 2014 to mark the first anniversary of protests which unleashed a year of turmoil. A crowd of several thousand gathered in Kiev's Independence Square, known as Maidan, to remember the more than 100 protestors who died in demonstrations that started on Nov. 21 last year. (GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Analysis: Old European enmities are shaping the present conflict with Russia.
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Global news community stands its ground against a 'new war on journalists'

Commentary: Amid growing violence against us, our colleagues’ work and their sacrifices inspire us to keep going.
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John and Diane Foley (left to right), the parents of James Foley, speak at the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Awards at the Waldorf Astoria on Nov. 25, 2014 in New York City. The CPJ is one of a number of global journalism groups dedicated to making reporting in the field safer for freelancers and reporters worldwide. (Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)

Update [12/6/14]: American freelance photographer Luke Somers, 33, was reportedly killed during a raid by US commandos early Saturday on an outpost of the Al Qaeda-affiliated group that has been holding him for over a year. This was reportedly the second failed attempt to free Somers. The New York Times is reporting that a second hostage, South African citizen Pierre Korkie, was also killed in the raid.

The war on journalism continues.

On Thursday, Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch published a video of a man identifying himself as Luke Somers, 33, a freelance photojournalist who was reportedly abducted in the capital of Sanaa last September.

In the video, a member of the group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – which has fueled its operations through millions of dollars in ransoms received for European hostages, US security officials say – attacks US foreign policy.

The man featured in the video also issues a stark warning: "We give the American government a timeframe of three days from the issuance of this statement to meet our demands about which they are aware; otherwise, the American hostage held by us will meet his inevitable fate.”

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