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Child Refugees Detained on Nauru Island; Europe Divided on Refugee Crisis; Interview with Mayor of Schengen; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 27, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: punished for being a refugee. An exclusive report on the children detained on an island off

Australia. Around the world every day, the most vulnerable and the innocent are turned away, locked up, dying in a crisis that demands an


Where is the world's conscience?


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

"Suffer the little children and forbid them not to come unto me," so it says in the Bible. Today, though, Europe and the United States are

forbidding them to come and causing deep suffering to the children.

A special task force on children on the move accuses European countries and institutions of failing refugee children, who risk death, illness,

trafficking, separation from their parents, extortion by smugglers, exploitation and abuse.

We still cannot forget the sight of Alan Kurdi's small body, washed up on the shore and sadly there are many, many more. These disturbing images

show the tragic truth which is that about 30 percent of all migrants who die crossing to Europe are children, according to this same report.

Just last week, another 17 children drowned off the coast of Greece and aid workers say some young ones arrive so cold and so wet that they quickly die

from hypothermia.

This and the anti-refugee rhetoric from here to the United States raises a serious question.

Have we finally lost our humanitarian heads and our hearts?

We'll explore that in a moment.

But first, let's look at the harsh reality for asylum seekers headed for Australia. Even children, along with their families, are sent to Pacific

Island detention centers, which they liken to prison. Our Ivan Watson has this exclusive report about Nauru Island in the Pacific Ocean.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Children searched with metal detectors just one of the security measures imposed on

scores of refugee and migrant children, who are held for months and even years by the Australian government at one of their refugee detention

centers on the Pacific island of Nauru.

WATSON: How old were you when you first got to the detention center?


WATSON: And now?

AHMED (PH): Twelve.

WATSON: And now you're 12.

WATSON (voice-over): Mizba Ahmed (ph) is a member of Myanmar's increasingly persecuted Muslim minority, whose family tried years ago to

reach Australia by boat. They were intercepted by Australian authorities, who brought them to what she calls a prison.

AHMED (PH): These are the plants. It's all around the camps.

WATSON: Is Nauru a good place for children?

AHMED (PH): Nauru is the worst place I have ever seen for children.

WATSON (voice-over): As of last December, there were at least 68 children out of a total of 537 detainees being held at this facility, on an island

with just 21 square kilometers of territory.

The Australian government established this controversial detention center as a response to the tens of thousands of refugees and migrants who

embarked on smugglers' boats in a dangerous effort to reach Australian shores.

Instead of keeping them in Australia, the authorities shipped hundreds of migrants and refugees to this camp in Nauru, an isolated, economically

underdeveloped Pacific Island nation.

Australia's immigration minister declined CNN's request for an interview but in a statement to CNN, a government spokesman said, "Stopping the boats

has enabled this government to return integrity to Australia's humanitarian and refugee program," and that "Australia and its partners comply with all

international obligations and treaties."

WATSON: We wanted to go to Nauru to check out the camp ourselves but it's not easy. First, the government of Nauru requires a $5,800 nonrefundable

journalist visa application fee per person. And it says it does not want foreign journalists on this small island.

Second, the Australian government forbids journalists from filming or interviewing detainees at its camps. So we've interviewed seven current

and former camp residents remotely about what it's like for children to live in this detention center.

SARAH HANSON-YOUNG, AUSTRALIAN SENATOR: Yes, I'm one of the few people --


HANSON-YOUNG: -- who has ever really been able to go into the camp and walk around and talk to families inside. No journalists are allowed in.

There is very little information let out of the camp.

And staff who work at the center are essentially gagged.

WATSON (voice-over): Sarah Hanson-Young is an Australian lawmaker who has lobbied to shut the camp down.

HANSON-YOUNG: There's absolutely no way the Australian government can justify keeping particularly families, women and children, in these camps.

They can't guarantee their safety.

WATSON (voice-over): Children in the Nauru camp suffer from extreme levels of emotional and psychological distress, Australian government reports

concluded. They also documented cases of sexual assault, saying the children should be removed.

Australia says it's listening to the recommendations. In recent months, Australian and Nauru authorities have taken steps to open the camp up.

Among the lucky few to be resettled in air-conditioned containers outside the Nauru camp last month, 12-year-old Mizba Ahmed (ph).

She helped start a Facebook campaign to draw attention to the plight of refugee children stranded in Nauru.

Dozens of children still live in the camp's moldy tents. Despite her long incarceration, Mizba says her family still dreams of one day reaching the

country that imprisoned her.

AHMED (PH): We just want to go to Australia and make our future very bright.

WATSON (voice-over): -- Ivan Watson, CNN.


AMANPOUR: And you can see more of Ivan's reporting on this extraordinary situation at

Now Alexander Betts is the director of the Refugee Study Center at Oxford University and he joins me now in the studio.

Welcome, Professor Betts.

What do you make of that and that 900 or so Australian academics have petitioned the government to let the children go and the government is

basically saying, you don't get reality. You don't understand what we're faced with?

ALEXANDER BETTS, OXFORD UNIVERSITY: Australia's offshore processing center has been a human rights disaster, particularly for children. There have

been damning human rights reports published by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

In 2013, the U.N. Refugee Agency said it was harsh and unsuitable for children and yet, just last year, there were 81 children living in that

detention center, sometimes for many years.

And it's shrouded in secrecy. Australia has an act called the Border Force Act, which means that any officials working for the administration that

speak to journalists or anyone else about the center face prosecution and prison.

AMANPOUR: Is there any -- I mean, look, it's not just Australia, it's everywhere now. I mean, really, the plight of these children.

The Republican candidate for president, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, said a few weeks ago, "I don't think orphans under 5 should be

admitted into the United States at this point."

What happened, Professor Betts, what happened that has turned the world even against children and think even children can be terrorists?

What's gone wrong with this refugee situation?

BETTS: The global refugee crisis is a crisis of child protection. Around half of the world's refugees are children or youth. So if people care

about children, they should care about the refugee issue.

And yet we seem to be globally in ethical freefall. We seem to have lost our morals and our moral compass. And we need to understand that we face a

lost generation. To take the Syrian example, some 2 million Syrians have been outside formal education for three, four, sometimes five years.

That's the future of Syria. That's a lost generation, that if we don't address, will be disastrous for the region and for all of us.

AMANPOUR: You know, it is Holocaust Memorial Day and there were horrendous historical incidents where men, women and children were turned back and

they went back to face death in the camps. It is extraordinary.

What has Europe done wrong?

What is it that they haven't faced up to?

What is it that they haven't been able to get together with, that, even today, children can be tolerated drowning off our shores?

BETTS: We seem to have forgotten our basic liberal values, the idea that we have a human rights obligation to people fleeing persecution. It's

Holocaust Memorial Day. The legacy of the Second World War was a recognition that nobody should face persecution, that everybody has a right

to fundamental human rights.

And yet collectively, we're in denial. We see, from Hungary's border fence, to Denmark's recent policies, seizing assets from refugees,

potentially denying family reunification for the first three years, that policies across the world are limiting those rights and failing to

recognize that people should be entitled to basic, fundamental dignity when they leave conflict and human rights abusing regimes.

AMANPOUR: And obviously, we've seen the rise of xenophobia from the United States to all over Europe. But, look, the government of Europe, so to

speak, the European Commission, et cetera, they said they were going to deal with this, that Chancellor Merkel, all these people said that they

were going to figure out some equitable way of distributing and it just hasn't happened.

The money they've promised to Turkey hasn't been delivered to deal with refugees there. You know, now, we've got Schengen --


AMANPOUR: -- at risk, the very heart of Europe.

Is there anything that can be done to somehow tamp this down before the next wave of refugees, what people are expecting in the spring?

BETTS: We need absolutely fundamental political leadership. Politicians have to be honest with their electorates and lay out a clear plan. But

they have to work together. It has to be based on international cooperation.

And time and time again, we've had international meetings that have achieved very little, where politicians have lurched back to the lowest

common denominator and entered into a race to the bottom.

The policies we've seen in the last few days in Denmark, for instance, are trying to deny and deter refugees access to territory in ways that reduce

standards across Europe and the rest of the world.

And it needs cooperation from all politicians to come together and recognize and explain, this is a fundamental human rights obligation to

children, to adults, as human beings. And if we deny that, we deny our own values and our own humanity.

AMANPOUR: Do you think our politicians failed to take into account the threat from those who would misuse the refugee situation, like those

terrorists who came in -- you know, European, obviously, but came into France and killed so many people there?

BETTS: We see moments of turning point, moments like the tragic death of Alan Kurdi last December, which was an opportunity for politicians to seize

the initiative, to highlight to politicians that we have an obligation. But then at moments like the terrorist attacks in Paris, like the tragic

events around Cologne, politicians have succumbed to the pressure from xenophobic politicians from the Far Right to shift the needle back towards

exclusionary and restrictive policies.

What it needs at those moments is for us to show leadership, for politicians to come out strongly and say we need to protect refugees, find

there are genuine anxieties about security, there are genuine concerns with immigration.

But amongst that, many vulnerable people are fleeing persecution.

If we can't save the lives of children, if we can't ensure basic access to people who will otherwise drown in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, who are


Where are our liberal values?

And where is our humanity?

And politicians are systematically and continuously failing to do that, time and time again.

AMANPOUR: Let me just play you a recent part of an interview from Kenneth Roth, who is the head of Human Rights Watch, about the backlash.


KENNETH ROTH, HRW: Fear of terrorism led governments to compromise rights and to scapegoat the refugees and, indeed, to fuel a rise in Islamophobia

that has been unprecedented in recent years.


AMANPOUR: So what we're seeing, Islamophobia from the United States and right at the heart and center of the presidential race and all over Europe

as well.

But what is the answer to that?

Because this is not going to stop. They predict something like 2.5 million refugees or migrants will come here in the next couple of years.

How is Europe physically going to get to grips with this?

Can it?

BETTS: Well, the issue that's the elephant in the room is the question of Islam. Few politicians are openly prepared to say that the real hindrance

to policies that are proactive in this area is the fact that there are concerns about Islam. We need to address that openly, have a frank debate

and ensure that we address it with our liberal values.

Europe is facing a crisis of liberalism. And part of the problem is the polarization of politics across Europe and elsewhere. We see the extreme

Right pandering to xenophobia, we see the extreme Left pushing often for an open doors policy and there's been a death of centrist politics.

There are few politicians putting forward a sensible, clear liberal line, saying that Islam can and should be compatible with our values as liberal

states and societies and to really address that fully, directly and start a fundamental debate that says, values of protecting people from persecution,

values of human rights, values of freedom of conscience and religion should be fundamental to who we are as people, as Western liberal societies and

that involves addressing these issues but being clear, being humane and not shifting to the lowest common denominator in policy or rhetoric.

AMANPOUR: So that's for that side.

On the other side, of course, is the economic threat that many Europeans feel, already under austerity, already high unemployment in some countries

and now they see all these refugees coming to get their jobs.

Now you and even Chancellor Merkel have said that actually they are a net positive to our economies.

Are they?

Do they come because there are now comments coming out from various German towns that, in fact, a lot of the refugees do not have the skill set that's

required for the economy and the jobs that are going.

BETTS: Well, many refugees have skills, talents, aspirations. They have the ability to contribute economically and studies, including from our own

research center in Oxford show that.

But of course it varies from population to population. The Syrians, many of them are educated, many of them are highly literate. For other

populations, it may be slightly different.

But where there are skills gaps, given that we have got a humanitarian obligation to these people, we should invest in training them, educating

them, not only so they benefit our economies and societies but so that when they go back to countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, they can rebuild

those societies.

We've got to remember that the presence of those refugees --


BETTS: -- in our countries is a way in which we incubate the future of those societies, their reconstruction and global security.

AMANPOUR: And indeed, many of those who have come from Syria say they would go back in a heartbeat if the war there was over and there was peace


But let me ask you about the very real threat to close borders. They're threatening to turn Greece out of Schengen. They're threatening to put up

a border. They've said, the Dutch prime minister just this week said, we have, you know, six to eight weeks to save Schengen.

Is closing borders going to work?

BETTS: It's utterly counterproductive. In an era of globalization, we can't simply put the genie back in the box. There is significant levels of

mobility. There's a demand for many vulnerable people to move.

We can't simply close borders. It won't work. All that will do is increase the demand for smugglers, it will increase the illegal routes and

that threatens European security and global security.

We need managed migration. We need clear policies that allow those who are vulnerable to enter and access our territories and where they're not

refugees or asylum seekers, we need to come up with alternative channels, based on cooperation, based on skills matching.

It's got to be rational. It's got to be clear. We can't become unilateralist countries. We can't engage in a race to the bottom and these

beggar thy neighbor policies that we see around the world at the moment.

AMANPOUR: Professor Betts, thank you very much indeed.

And after a break, as the refugee crisis threatens, as we said, the very heart of Europe, which is its openness, we speak to the mayor of Schengen,

which is the birthplace of this borderless union. That's next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Shape up. That is Europe's new message for Greece today but Athens is furiously hitting back at Brussels and its threat to expel it, not from the

euro this time but from Schengen itself, Europe's borderless union.

Greece says alone it cannot stop the flow to its shores of about 2,000 refugees every day. And it's not the only one. And that's why the

European Commission is thinking the unthinkable, suspending Schengen's free movement altogether for up to two years, ending Europe as we have come to

know it.

But already temporary border checks have been reinstituted across the continent, in six countries from Sweden to Germany, Austria and Hungary,

Schengen has become essential to life and business in these 26 European countries and nowhere more so than in the town itself, Schengen, in

Luxembourg, where the agreement in 1985 and 1990 was signed, where France, Germany and Luxembourg all meet.

And to discuss it is the mayor of Schengen, Ben Homan.

Welcome to the program.

What do you make of this threat to close Schengen, to suspend Schengen?

Is that even possible?

BEN HOMAN, MAYOR OF SCHENGEN: I think this should not be possible and this cannot be possible. Because you see, the whole world ends with us, for

what different nation realized in Schengen, by signing the Schengen agreement.

And we should do everything possible to conserve this Schengen area, because it's a great thing that we realize there. There are more than

40,000 people each year coming to our little village, just to be in the place where this famous agreement has been signed.

AMANPOUR: What about actual, you know, business and trade and the free movement of people for employment, et cetera?

How would --


AMANPOUR: -- that affect your specific town?

HOMAN: Yes. Let's say for Schengen, it's very important, because we're living so near, so close to the border. If you are traveling 100 meters or

150 meters, we travel a border.

And for us, it's very important to have these open borders but only for a little small village like Schengen.

Also for, I think, very big countries, about the Schengen area, it's very important, because, let me tell you that, in Germany, an economic board

calculated that the costs about closing the borders for the German economic would be in about 10 billion euros of costs.


Do you think German leaders, other European leaders, has everybody miscalculated?

Have they been naive about the unity of Europe and trying to deal with a crisis that surely a continent of 500 million well-off people should be

able to deal with?

HOMAN: I think that's one of the problems. I think we reacted too slowly. And we should come back to what was our strength. That's our union.

You see, what we achieved, we achieved it in common. And all the world is looking to Europe, because we achieved it in getting nations together and

solving problems, you see.

And I should think that the solution to this problem, also to the refugee problem, is that we should find a solution in common, a solidary solution.

We can't leave the problems to the countries on the outstanding border of the Schengen area. We must find a solution in common. And that was our

strength in the past and we should give this up.

AMANPOUR: Mayor Ben Homan from Schengen, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

And just to note, it was a common solution by the European Commission president to resettle equitably 160,000 refugees.

Remember that?

Well, 331 have actually been resettled. And this is the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

Today, as we said, it's Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27th, the day Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz. From that darkness, though, emerged

powerful beacons of light, like Nicholas Winton, whose Kindertransport rescue operation saved 669 children from the Nazis, children who grew up

and gave back to the societies that rescued them.

When we come back, Donald Trump's hate speech against refugees, migrants and Muslims have been likened to the stirrings of an ugly fascism. And all

over the world, people are asking, will he really be the next President of the United States of America?

But it's not just migrants and Muslims; it's women, too. And it's no joke, when we come back.





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where misogyny and sexism are part of mainstream political discourse, at least in this extraordinary

race for the American presidency.

Donald Trump, who leads the Republican pack, has done it again, this time blasting FOX anchor Megyn Kelly.

Trump tweeted, "I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead, I will only call her a lightweight


Well, Megyn Kelly is neither a bimbo nor a lightweight. She's actually got a law degree and is generally accepted to be FOX News' brightest and most

balanced star.

But Trump has taken his personal verbal boxing match with her to the mat, bailing out of FOX's Republican debate tomorrow night unless FOX bails on

Kelly. Trump wants her ousted as moderator after her questions got under his skin in the last FOX debate.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS HOST: You've called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account --


KELLY: No, it wasn't. For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O'Donnell.

TRUMP: Yes, I'm sure it was.


AMANPOUR: He then went on CNN to add insult to insult with this incomprehensible follow-up.


TRUMP: She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. And, you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her

eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.

AMANPOUR: But his anti-female tirades are legion. Early on, he rounded on fellow Republican contender, Carly Fiorina, attacking her looks, telling

"Rolling Stone" magazine, "Look at that face, would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?"

On stage later, she shot back.


CARLY FIORINA (R), CALIF.: You know, it's interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think

women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.


AMANPOUR: They say that when you're in a hole, a deeply misogynistic one, you should just stop digging. This, apparently, is not advice that Trump

seems to heed.

So we say sexism in any form is unacceptable, especially among those who would seek the highest office of any land and who must be expected to

defend and promote women's rights and gender justice.

And, by the way, in case you missed it, women were the only ones who turned up to work in the U.S. Senate during Snowmageddon on Tuesday.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can now also listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.