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Record Number of Refugees Arrive in Europe; One Refugee's Treacherous Journey; Pressure Builds on Merkel over Refugee Crisis; ISIS Makes Gains in Syria's Homs Province; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired November 2, 2015 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: from Paris, a continent in crisis amid news that a record number of refugees arrived last
month, as many as all of last year.
Bearing the brunt, Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Will she survive?
I'll ask her interior minister, live from Berlin.
Also ahead, a powerful film. One refugee's treacherous journey from Syria to Europe.
And a CNN exclusive from Mt. Sinjar in Iraq. Battling back ISIS.
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Paris.
The rise of the extreme Right here and across the continent gets another boost from the latest refugee figures and the bloom is well and truly off
the Merkel rose, her open door policy under fire. In a moment I speak exclusively to the German interior minister.
But first, 2,018 -- 218,000 refugees just last month. One man's desperate journey from his devastated city in Syria highlights this ticking political
time bomb. Watch this report from our colleagues at Britain's Channel 4 News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABU SALAH, SYRIAN REFUGEE (from captions): Please help us! The regime of Bashar al-Assad is killing us! Please! Every day there is blood.
I can't speak.
Please help us!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allahu Akbar.
SALAH (voice-over): They bombed my home. They killed my cousin. And a lot of (INAUDIBLE) injured, hard injured. Terrible things happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): I condemn you, Bashar al-Assad. God help us!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Abu Salah was a blacksmith living in Al- Rastan, one of the first cities to rise up against the Assad regime. And in retaliation it was completely flattened by the Syrian army.
He made his mission to record the destruction of the loss of life, to tell the world about the horror of the war unfolding around him.
SALAH: After that I decide to leave Syria just for save my family and myself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Abu Salah brought his family to Turkey. He made frequent trips back to Syria by himself, compelled to keep
documenting the war, hoping it would make a difference until the day he couldn't take it anymore and felt the world was just not listening.
SALAH: I'm a human being. I am not animal.
(from captions): Abu Salah decided to make the journey to Europe. He thought it best to go alone and send for his family later. He reached the
western coast of Turkey and joined thousands of refugees looking for a boat to Greece.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Abu Salah spent a week in Izmir preparing for the journey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): This is the best captain! The best captain ever!
SALAH (voice-over): The smuggler choose me to drive this boat because anyone who drive the boat, he go free without paying the money, $1,200.
But when I decide to drive this boat, I cannot imagine all these people, 57 people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): After 2.5 hours at sea, the group arrive on a tiny Greek island, their first steps on European soil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Where are you going?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Germany.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): They traveled on by bus through Greece, then continued on foot into Macedonia. They reached the border at dawn,
where they rested. Then they followed railway tracks heading north.
SALAH: It's hard for this child.
SALAH: I carry a lot of child in this journey. But I feeling, this is my daughter.
SALAH (from captions): Wasn't that a beautiful train?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): They boarded a train to take them to the Serbian border. It dropped them just short and they had to trudge through
forests in the dead of night to reach Serbia.
SALAH (voice-over): It was very cold. The children all the time hungry, need the water. Very tired. Very tired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Keep going. Keep going. Don't stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The women and children did their best to keep up the pace. All the way, they slept rough.
After hours of waiting, finally a train arrives to take them north. Silent and exhausted, they trek through the night to make it across the Hungarian
border, desperately trying not to get caught by police patrols.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): There is a car. Hide, hide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): But the rain they could not escape.
After Hungary, Abu Salah traveled by himself up to Germany and ended up in Belgium. He's in a refugee center, hoping to be granted asylum and for his
family eventually to join him.
AMANPOUR: So there you have it. And you saw how many of those refugees wanted to make it to Germany.
So let's turn now to the pressure on Chancellor Merkel, who's expected to take in up to 1.5 million refugees this year, more than any other European
country. And she is feeling the political heat.
Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, joins me live from Berlin.
Mr. Minister, welcome back to the program.
Let me ask you, is Germany's open door policy in jeopardy?
Is the chancellor going to have to do a U-turn?
THOMAS DE MAIZIERE, GERMAN INTERIOR MINISTER: Well, no, there was no policy of invitation. We are just respecting international law. We are a
popular country. That is true. But there is no right of the refugee to choose the country of his or her choice.
So in your report, this ended in Belgium. So Germany, Austria and Sweden are those countries who are suffering, in a way, the most. And so we need
a solidarian (ph) European answer.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Minister, you say no right to choose and, of course, legally you're correct. But the German chancellor made it very clear over
the summer that refugees from Iraq and Syria, those fleeing ISIS, would be welcomed in Germany and anywhere else, suspending some of the laws that
said, well, stay in the country that you first arrive in.
Is that now in jeopardy?
And what about her coalition partners?
DE MAIZIERE: Well, first of all, we are changing and facing -- we are facing a real challenge, probably the biggest one after the reunification.
That is true.
And thanks to the public service and to thousands of volunteers, that we so far could manage the situation, but now the number is too high. So we need
measures to reduce the numbers. And this is part of the discussion in our government. We need international, European and national measures.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Minister, you said we can manage. That obviously was the chancellor's clarion call. We can do this.
And as you say now, the pressure is increasing. Her coalition partner, with whom she's been having some emergency meetings, said the following,
that they have agreed to an urgent need to cut drastically the numbers of refugees. This is also what he said. Just listen for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HORST SEEHOFER, BAVARIAN PREMIER (through translator): The most paramount demand we have, together with the CDU, is the number of migrants urgently
needs to be reduced.
There is a general consensus. Otherwise, we cannot cope with our integration duties, security matters and lose the approval of the
population on immigration and migrant policy.
AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Minister, what is going to happen next?
Transit zones, I understand, has been agreed.
DE MAIZIERE: I agreed to the sentence. The number has to be reduced. But there is not a single key or just a single solution for all of that.
We need international measures, money for the refugee camps, that not so many leave again and again those camps. Then we need to deal with Turkey.
We need the hot spots in Greece and Italy, to distribute them from there those who need protection. And others should be returned from these hot
Then we need a system of distribution all over Europe. We need a common asylum system. And there are national measures to have quicker procedures
and to a different shade between those who need protection and others. So altogether this will reduce the numbers and this is really urgent.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Minister, there is, obviously, as I keep saying and everybody's saying now, that there's a huge amount of pressure on the
And also we hear and we read about and we've seen reports of the rise again of the extreme right wing PEGIDA party and other parties and, even in
Germany people lamenting, for instance, I read, the loss of, quote unquote, "concentration camps."
And as you've seen, even a spoof film about Adolf Hitler has drawn a lot of money, busting a taboo in Germany since World War II.
Talk to me about the politicization and the polarization of people in this regard because of the refugees.
DE MAIZIERE: Well, in a way, it's a matter of concern. The last time we talked together you asked me about PEGIDA and I said, don't overestimate
PEGIDA. After that, PEGIDA was nearly invisible.
But now after this huge increase of the numbers of refugees there is a growing concern about a Right populist movement in Germany. We have
criminal actions against asylum seekers. We have, by the way, criminal acts from asylum seekers as well.
So the atmosphere, the tone in Germany is rougher than it was and this is a matter of concern. Perhaps we are, in a way, like other European countries
with a bigger populist movement, which we are used to. This is a matter of concern.
AMANPOUR: Do you think Chancellor Merkel's government can survive?
It wasn't just a few weeks ago when the whole world was still calling her the forever leader of Europe, if you like. And now openly her leadership
is being questioned and her political survival is being questioned.
DE MAIZIERE: Well, the German government is strong. The coalition is strong. The chancellor is even stronger; of course, there is pressure but
not on her or on the government but on Europe, on Germany. The situation is the real pressure.
It's not about migration. It's about the crisis areas. It's the influence of ISIS. We are facing a huge -- we are facing huge problems. And this
creates problems to all of us. But we are politicians to fight with these problems and we will do this successfully.
AMANPOUR: Minister Thomas de Maiziere, interior minister, thanks so much for joining me from Berlin tonight.
And we will talk later in the program about ISIS. But first, the last massive influx came after the Berlin Wall fell.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): -- by announcing East Germans were now free to cross into the West. That was 26 years ago. And he caused an immediate
and historic stampede. He died this weekend.
After a break, an exclusive report from our Nima Elbagir with Iraqis trying to stem the ISIS stampede across their country.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to our program from Paris tonight. And the crisis rocking this country starts in the mountains and deserts of the Middle
East. Our next report comes from Mt. Sinjar, which ISIS captured last year, killing and enslaving tens of thousands of Yazidis.
Now as a second cold winter looms, they are fighting back. And Nima Elbagir got exclusive access as they try to recapture their home.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mt. Sinjar: these desolate slopes claimed the lives of dozens of children last year and this year the
Yazidis are bracing themselves for the worst.
BUHA (PH) (through translator): The mountain is so cold. You can see, there is nothing up here.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Buha (ph) is 30. She and her nine daughters escaped the ISIS onslaught last year. This year she says she worries it's the
mountain that will kill them.
ELBAGIR: Buha (ph) was just telling me that 17 of them live in this tiny tarpaulin-lined tent. And everything that you see here, the clothing that
they're wearing, the pots, the pans, this is it. This is all that they have in the world. And they are facing another incredibly brutal winter up
here on the mountain.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): The world watched as thousands of Yazidis were massacred during the ISIS push for the town of Sinjar last August. Sinjar
and the mountain that looms over it are at the heart of the homeland of the Yazidi minority. It shelters their holiest shrine, the shrine of the
It also falls along a crucial ISIS supply route, linking ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria.
Preparations are now under way to retake Sinjar. Hundreds of Yazidi guards, though, are still held by ISIS fighters as slaves.
Buha's (ph) sister and two teenage nieces are among the captives. She says she cries when she remembers that they're gone. As the offensive draws
nearer, she worries they're still in Sinjar.
BUHA (PH) (through translator): Where are they?
Will they take them even further away?
Will they be caught in the fighting?
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Down in the foothills, the Yazidi soldiers stand guard. Many of the fighters here have families up on the mountain slopes
Today, a local folk singer has come to rally them on but they know too well what they're fighting for: their very existence. Ill-equipped, poorly
supplied, the force commander tells me they need all the help they can get.
KHEINA KHAFAT (PH), YAZIDI COMMANDER (through translator): We need international support. We need heavy weaponry, especially now. We stood
against ISIS with nothing but machine guns. We withstood a huge enemy and we stood strong. We need your help.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): For now, the Yazidis are clinging on, desperate to stay within sight of their abandoned homes. Everyone here hopes this will
finally be over and soon, even as they prepare themselves for what awaits them in the town below -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Mt. Sinjar.
AMANPOUR: So a long, hard slog against ISIS there.
And in Southern Syria, where ISIS is making new gains in Homs province, closing in on a critical highway that connects Homs with the capital,
So what's going to stop them?
Bassma Kodmani has been a key figure in the Syrian opposition for years and she joins me now here live in Paris.
Welcome back to the program.
BASSMA KODMANI, FORMER SPOKESPERSON OF THE SYRIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So we're seeing those underfunded, underresourced Iraqis trying to push ISIS back off Mt. Sinjar. The United States has now announced 50
special forces going to Northern --
AMANPOUR: -- Syria to try to do battle and somehow stop ISIS in Syria.
Your reaction to that, is that enough?
KODMANI: I think what we have seen over four -- more than four years is that everything that comes from this Obama administration has been -- comes
too late and is underresourced.
And this is another example of what is happening, which doesn't make a difference on the ground.
Now this is exactly what should have happened years ago. This is exactly what the Syrian opposition has been calling for. Give us the commands,
give us the structuring, the organization and the strategizing with us and we will fight because we are determined to fight.
AMANPOUR: So then explain to me and to the world, who now says, well, look, you know, the U.S. paid 500 million in a program to arm and equip
rebels, opposition and it didn't work and they've given it up.
KODMANI: It seemed as if everything was designed for it not to work because the actual process was itself flawed.
From the start it was what were the criteria for choosing the fighters and who are they going to fight?
So the vetting itself was not clear. We didn't know who would qualify. And so very few qualified. Almost no one qualified. We don't know what
these criteria were.
And, secondly, they were asked to fight ISIS. So these groups would go to Turkey, meet with the American command center and veto that they should
fight ISIS only.
And they would come back and say what are we going to tell our fighters, what are we going to tell our men, that we're not going to fight the
regime, that we've given up on the regime?
But they've been dying and their friends have died and their families have been displaced because of the regime. So this really seemed as a losing
strategy from the start.
AMANPOUR: And certainly it did. As I say, the U.S. has given that up and now they're going to put more backing behind local fighters.
But, first and foremost, what has Russia done, as far as you and your opposition colleagues in Syria know, against ISIS?
What is Russia's -- net result of Russia's intervention?
KODMANI: What we know is that Russia, in the last week, has, of course, committed huge, considerable crimes and killed a lot. But more
importantly, from a strategic perspective, Russia is helping ISIS advance, not that it is doing it deliberately but the net result is that the regime
Russia does not have troops with the regime, who are able to fight on the ground. So however the air coverage is effective, however effective it is
and however intensive it is, it doesn't hurt those -- the regime is retreating in the face of ISIS. So ISIS is gaining ground.
AMANPOUR: Especially this is true in Homs province, where --
AMANPOUR: -- pretty much --
KODMANI: -- in several areas.
AMANPOUR: What about the political process?
Now Iran is at the table. Russia, obviously, as it always has been.
Is there any hope of a political solution to this, even if it's not right now?
Is there any hope, given the conditions right now?
KODMANI: The bombing has to stop before anything else.
AMANPOUR: Which bombing?
KODMANI: The bombing of each and every city in Syria. There have been more than 250 killed.
AMANPOUR: By the regime or by the coalition?
KODMANI: -- by Russian -- by Russian raids and by the regime raids, barrel bombs and the Russian raids on the opposition regions, the areas.
People are dying. But that's not the only point. Russia is also killing the moderate opposition forces. And these are the ones who would fight
ISIS. These are the best people, who know where ISIS is, who ISIS is, what areas ISIS is hiding in, what is its strategy.
So if we want people to fight ISIS on the ground, one should look to the Free Syrian Army.
And in the future, under the right conditions, this Syrian -- Free Syrian Army is willing to work with the loyalist army, provided we know the end
Will Assad go?
In this case, you will find these forces spontaneously working together or at least in the right direction -- in the same direction at the first step
and then together against ISIS.
AMANPOUR: Bassma Kodmani, thank you. It is incredible that 4.5 years on we still don't know the end game or the strategy. Thank you so much for
joining us tonight.
And after a break, next month, this city, Paris, becomes the center of the world, when dozens of heads of state and the pope are expected to be here
for the biggest climate conference ever. Even now the City of Light is going green. We imagine that -- next.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, here in Paris, we are not imagining a world but a city transformed. Paris is famed for its historic gardens, as
painted by artists like Monet and Manet, of course.
But the City of Light doesn't appear to be as green as London or New York, for instance. And Mayor Anne Hidalgo is promising Parisians more parks.
It is all part of a campaign to make this often-smoggy capital more environmentally friendly, especially now ahead of the crucial climate
summit that will convene here at the end of this month.
This will be the biggest eco-neighborhood in the city, with a 10-hectare park, with 500 types of plants planned. Every rooftop will have a
vegetable garden or solar panels and underground there will be waste disposal units, all of this in the least green part of the city.
While here in the city's center, where more and more Parisians are getting on their bikes, another new park is planned along the banks of the River
Seine, the size of 4.5 rugby pitches. So let's hope the City of Light will become a guiding light for others.
And that is it for our program tonight. Remember you can always see all our interviews at amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you for watching and goodbye from Paris.