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Afghan migrant: I thought France was humane until police beat me

PARIS (Reuters) – Murtaza Khademi left his home in Afghanistan and smuggled himself into France because he thought he would be safe, but this week he encountered a different side of Europe: a police operation in which, he says, he was beaten with a truncheon.

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks demonstrate to show their support for asylum seekers, and to denounce police violence and an unwelcoming policy towards migrants in France, after clashes sparked when French police cleared out a new migrant camp at Place de la Republique in Paris, France, November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

“The police forces had no mercy. We thought they were humane people,” he said on Tuesday night near a railway station in Paris where charities were distributing food. “They are not like that at all.”

Khademi was among dozens of migrants and asylum seekers who had pitched pop-up tents on a central square in the city in an organised protest intended to attract attention to their precarious living conditions.

Police in riot gear moved in to disperse the protest on Monday night. Officers tussled with protesters as they tried to drag them out of the tents.

Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said some of the scenes were “shocking” and that officers who behaved unacceptably would be punished. Officials said though the protest was illegal so police were within their rights to disperse it.

Khademi, 27, said he was inside his tent when the police arrived and beat him with batons. He escaped, but said he left his belongings inside the tent, so now he had nothing.

From Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, he said he travelled through Pakistan, Iran, and the Balkans to reach France. He previously stayed at a migrant camp on the edge of Paris, but that was dispersed last week.

Now, he said, he moves around the streets looking for a place to bed down. Many ordinary French people were supportive, he said, but the police were hostile.

“I thought that France was a good place and that its people are European, and that’s why we came here, but the immigrants were not well received,” he said, speaking in Dari, one of the languages used in Afghanistan.

“We have no way back; we have to stay here and endure the situation because we have no other choice.”

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‘Keep your promises’: Erdogan says Turkey sees itself as part of Europe before EU summit

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that Turkey sees itself as a part of Europe, but he called on the European Union to “keep your promises” on issues such as the country’s membership bid and refugees.

He spoke before an EU summit due to be held next month. In recent weeks, EU members have raised the prospect of sanctions against Turkey over its gas exploration missions in the eastern Mediterranean.

“We always see ourselves as part of Europe,” Erdogan said in a virtual speech to ruling party members. “We chose to favour Europe as long as they don’t force us to look elsewhere.”

He added: “Keep your promises to our country, from full membership to the issue of refugees. Let’s establish a closer and more efficient co-operation together.”

Turkey applied for membership in the bloc in 1987 and four years ago signed a deal with the EU to manage the flow of migrants to Europe.

However, claims of democratic backsliding have seen its application effectively suspended while both sides have accused the other of not properly implementing the refugee agreement.

Ankara has dispatched research and drill ships to waters claimed by EU members Greece and Cyprus, sparking a military escalation over the summer.

Prior to an EU summit in September, Turkey withdrew the Oruc Reis research vessel from the eastern Mediterranean. The ship later returned and on Saturday Turkey announced it was extending its mission until Nov. 29.

European heads are due to meet in Brussels on Dec. 10 and 11 and have voiced concerns over Turkish activity in parts of the Mediterranean that Ankara unilaterally claims as its economic zone.

Tensions have also been stoked by Erdogan’s insults against French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkey’s foreign policy in northern Cyprus and Azerbaijan.

Last week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Turkey to stop “provocations” in the Mediterranean or face possible sanctions. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was “approaching a watershed moment in our relationship with Turkey.”

In a bid to patch up relations, Erdogan dispatched his spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, who often takes a role in foreign affairs, to Brussels on Friday.

Over the last two weeks, Erdogan has talked about plans for judicial and democratic reforms to accompany a change in economic policy, a sign that some have suggested is a bid to win over Europe and the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden in the U.S.

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