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tv   America Tonight  Al Jazeera  January 5, 2016 12:30am-1:01am EST

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there it is on your screen, all the lateliest on the diplomatic row between saudi arabia and iran over the execution of a president xi jinping acleric. -- - of a sympathy that cleric. al children with autism and the impulses that can lead them to bottle toward danger. but first the refugee crisis in europe and the big issue now on the forefront: unaccompanied miles an hour. >> do yo minors. >> do you think about your family? >> yes. >> does your family know where >> no. >> sheila macvicar on athe road ahead for refugees. good evening and thank you for
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joining us, i'm adam may sitting for joie chen. the migrant crisis in europe doesn't seem like it will be letting up any time soon. "america tonight" joined some of these families on a desperate journey from macedonia to germany. now there's a problem, children making this dangerous trek alone. some worry a crisis within a crisis is brewing, care for these unaccompanied children, correspondent sheila macvicar reports . >> reporter: one country left behind. another one to cross. one more border. every day there are hundreds, on some days, thousands, exhausted men, women and children of all ages. grandparents in wheelchairs.
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babies in strollers. and small children carrying back packs. together, struggling towards a new life in western europe. for many of these refugees, this border crossing and makeshift center near the macedonian town of gergilia marks just the halfway point of their journey. few months ago, relief agencies say most of those traveling here were men, especially young men and that hasn't changed. increasingly they are seeing families with children, very young children, families with babies, and sometimes, children traveling alone. vladimir is a social worker with a macedonian child protection organization, his job to search out the most vulnerable refugees, the children traveling on their own. your specialty sun accompanied minors, what are you looking
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for? >> victims of trafficking. >> how do you find victims of trafficking? >> boys who travel alone. they have prepared story. they never told you that they are 13, 14, 15. >> they lie about their age? >> yes. >> reporter: with the growing number of unaccompanied child refugees european officials now worry another crisis is brewing. predators taking advantage of the chaos to traffic children for sex or other kinds of exploitation. on this morning he has spotted several boys he is certain are under age, he has lost them in the crowd. you say the young boys how old, 14, 15? >> yes. >> reporter: finally they are hunkered down with a group of men. unlike most, they own up to their ages. how old are you? >> i am
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14. >> who are you traveling with? >> my cousin. >> you are with your cousin? how old is he. >> 13. >> ages 14 and 13. their home is in kabul. vilal told us the last time he had a shower was more than two weeks ago. the men they were traveling with, strangers who, like the boys, also paid thousands of dollars to the same smuggler to take them along a now well-traveled route. >> how hard is this for you? how hard is this trip, this journey? >> this for us, we have fast moving by walking, by walking we are coming, like about six or seven hours ten difficult. >> how many countries have you been through, do you know, have you lost track? >> no, i don't know know exactly how many countries i will pass. >> but you have a long way to
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go? >> yes. >> cousins balal and latif said they were going to belgium where they n know no one but where thy hope to go to school and be safe. >> my family, the situation of my family, i don't know. >> does your family know where you are? >> no. >> no phone, no way of communicating, bilal finally told us why his family had raised money for a smuggler and sent the two of them off alone on such a perilous journey. he tells us his father was threatened by the taliban, demanding he join them or his family would be killed. fearing balal and l-atif are one of the many thousands of unaccompanied children who have washed up this year. laws in europe say children under 18 must be opportunity
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protection of family or guardians, laws that border officials, police, governments and international aid agencies are ignoring. >> when you have an unaccompanied minor we are supposed to be dealing with them. >> rutan is a unicef official in europe. >> if you want to stop them, it would be against their best interest. >> reporter: because normally that would be part of your job in unicef, to gather these kids up and keep them safe. >> totally, yes. what we are looking for, making sure those children are not being smuggled or trafficked. for the moment i can tell you all the road between here and germany nobody is going to do anything legal because nobody has the means. this country the main objective is to make sure nobody stays behind. >> most underage refugees are convinced if they tell authorities the truth they will be sent home. >> he is 19 years old.
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>> you're 19? you're 19? you don't look 19. >> some in this group of afghans looked a lot younger than the 19 years old they first insisted they were. >> they are afraid if they say their true age 15 and 17 that they will get stopped. >> they will get stopped. >> they will get stopped. he finally owned up to being 15. >> people are suffering all this way, drowning in the sea. why should we get all this way just to get deported? if we're sent back to afghanistan we will be killed. we don't want that. >> the truth is that on this long road, many countries like macedonia don't want the burden of caring for these children. and so it's not until they get to their destinations in austria, germany or beyond that
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thats refugees come forward and ask for help. this year alone, germany has registered 57,000 unaccompanied miles an hour. that's a huge increase when 27,000 for last year was reported for all of europe. like 16-year-old sarah. we met her in ber berlin. >> why did your parents agree that you could make this difficult journey alone? >> at first my parents were against it. i even threatened i would commit suicide if they didn't agree i could leave. it's my future and my family's future. >> reporter: sarah's now in legal limbo. the german system so mired. >> i don't have a bus pass or court appointment to confirm my status.
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>> how much do you have? >> nothing. >> sarah gets 7 euros a week to live on, that's less than $10. but more than the money the delay in processing means kids don't have a permanent home. like these three boys all under age, fleeing war in syria and fear of conscription into assad's army. we blurred their faces in accordance with german law. why did you want to come to germany? why germany? >> it's only here, they respect people, humans. but it was hard. >> why was it hard? >> because the living, there is a lot of adults there, there is a lot of fat people there. >> what do you mean there were bad adults there? >> like drugs, alcohol. >> you didn't feel safe there? >> no. >> and we heard other stories.
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of underage kids forced from hostiles, children sleeping rough in the woods. at the main refugee processing center in berlin we asked sylvia, spokes woman for the city's refugee policy how underage kids could be left to fend for themselves for months. >> normally it's not case. it could be extremely mistake or error, because minors have a special status. i have to see the case because it's a special -- it must be a special case. >> she admitted the system is overwhelmed. >> we need more staff. more staff. because we have got already, but we need more. >> reporter: so almost all the kids who come here have got some kind of trauma in one way or another? >> everybody has his own the themes, his own problems.
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>> andreas is a social worker. this kind i place supports and houses unaccompanied minors. >> now, we have not enough places for the boys and girls. >> the numbers are so great? >> yeah, they are so great so now the problem is that when a boy from syria is coming to berlin that the time he has to wait that the process is star starting is taking a long long time. >> in that long time children are left vulnerable and after such a journey, the waiting is just so hard. >> translator: i miss my family. my life now is about a person who is lonely by herself. who has no one around. >> if you had known it was going to be this hard, would you have done this, to make this journey all on your own, come to berlin by yourself? >> translator: i still would have come for my sisters and
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brother and for my family. it might be many years before i can see them again. >> reporter: many years, and a still difficult road ahead. sheila macvicar, al jazeera, on europe's refugee trail. >> coming up next: correspondent sheila macvicar joins us on set with more on the ongoing migrant crisis in europe and what it means for those most at risk, unaccompanied children. and later on the run, children living with autism and their parents' desperate attempts to keep them from bottling away. and hot on "america tonight's" website now, flint's water, what does the resignation of a michigan state official mean in the effort to help flint's water crisis? find out more at
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>> at 9:30 - "america tonight" - top investigative reporting, uncovering new perspectives. >> everything that's happening here is illegal. >> then at 10:00 - it's "reports from around the world". >> let's take a closer look. >> antonio mora gives you a global view. >> this is a human rights crisis. >> and at 11:00 - "news wrap-up". clear... concise... complete.
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>> and welcome back. joining us now "america tonight's" sheila macvicar. sheila, i know you spent weeks on the ground in europe tracking the refugee crisis that's happening there. first off, i think it's one thing to see the images on tv but another to be ton ground and talk to these people. >> you see wave after wave after wave.
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when you see families dragging grandma in her wheelchair across unpaved roads, you know the journey they have had that that woman has been on a journey from turkey to greece, they pushed her all the way, she has a destination so much further to the west, that family is done and they're not going back. >> it shows the amount of desperation they must have. looking at the changing demographics of this, you pointed out that earlier on it did seem like there were more young single men making this journey, now we see these families and these unaccompanied minors, do we see the trend ocontinue on here? >> the reason we saw younger men first, the younger men were the young who could carve the path get to the destination and figure out, is this the safe place for everyone else? because under refugee rules, you have a right the family reooun
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figurereunification, so the shit we are seeing now, where we are seeing unaccompanied children and in some cases we know of a 17-year-old girl with her seven-year-old sister. we know of children as young as 12 making this journey alone in the hands of smugglers to whom their parents have paid money. >> and as you point out it could put them at risk. >> it puts them at risk. but if you consider if you oar parent and sitting in afghanistan or syria, this is the calculation that these families are making. >> is this journey going to become even harder for countries, sich a such as swedes placing a limit on reunification. >> sweene sweden has taken more than
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any other country, 163,000 this year. sweden has said, we are overwhelmed, we can't cope with all of this. for the first time since the 1950s they are requiring photographic identification like opassport to go across the state to sweden. and the people they are turning away are not those with passports, many of them syrians but we know that three young afghan boys were turned away because they didn't have passports. >> with the forecast of 1.5 million making the journey, the u.s. only bringing in 1.5 thousand, sheila macvicar thank you. up next, when everything she did wasn't enough, children with autism and the impulses that put them at risk.
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and welcome back. over the last couple of years we have seen a rapid energies in the number of people diagnosed with autism. yet so much about it remains a mystery. what causes it? why some who live with it communicate more freely than others? and whether it can or should be cured. what we do know is that autism is not a fatal diagnosis but the mortality rate for people with autism is almost twice as high as the rest of the population. how could that be and why isn't the government willing to do more to protect people living with autism for some of the impulses within themselves. here is "america tonight"'s joie chen.
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>> savannah! we got boop, popcorn. >> in her brief life, savannah martin reached far beyond the experts expectations. learned more than doctors ever thought she would. >> what's that? >> one. >> two? three? >> when savannah was diagnosed with severe autism at 2 they told her mother not to expect too much. >> she's never going to look at you, she's never going to talk to you, you're never going to hear i love you and this was hard. and thankfully i had amazing people in my life who said don't give up, never ever give up, you fight. >> intensive therapy helped, so did her mother's almost constant attention. >> i did everything i could, i was always with her. >> you wanted to do everything to keep her safe.
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>> i showered her with it that morning about. >> beth remembers a bright sunday and savannah was still in her church dress. >> she loved to watch ramen noodles. kids with autism like to see that, the ralen noodles to spin in the microwave. >> four minutes, four minutes, just enough to answer the call of nature. >> by the time i flushed the toilet i could hear the front door close and i knew something was wrong. panic hit. i ran downstairs. she wasn't by the microwave. i ran out the door, screaming her name screaming her name and couldn't find her anywhere. >> savannah and her two-year-old brother tommy who doesn't have a disability didn't respond. they got into a barbed wire
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fence and into a pond 50 yards from their home. tommy had been wearing a helmet that kept his head above water. but not savannah. >> i've got to keep her alive i got to do this. i had in the the emts came, they took over, i kept screaming you have to save her you have to save her. >> savannah's story was a classic case of what autism experts call eloping, bolting. >> sounds will make them run away quickly. if you are unprepared for that, you may not be able to catch him in time. >> it can happen -- >> in a second. an immediate flight or fight response. the unpredictability of it can,
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the impulsivity of it makes it so dangerous. >> her son was only seven when he bolted out of school. >> it was a real wakeup call for us. kids with autism they are very fascinated with certain topics and for him it was highway exit signs so he headed on foot to the highway to find his favorite exit sign. >> a driver who saw connor got him to safety but the crisis led mcelwane to track how common bolting is. >> my name is laurie mcelwane. >> and what might help save other children. >> kids with autism at this moment could be making a break for it. happens every day every week what? >> 35% attempt to wander every week. >> 35%. >> and 23% wander multiple times a day. >> nearly half of children on the
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autistic spectrum bolt around age 4 up to eight times as often as their unaffected siblings. most often they are drawn to roadways or to water. >> most wandering cases aren't reported but those that are we track these cases and put them here. the yellow lines indicate that the child or the adult with autism has died. you see drowning deaths and that is the leading cause of wandering deaths in our community. >> in one of the nation's closely followed bolter cases, avonte left his queens school, caught on security cameras. his body was found at the queens river, three months later. his brother daniel searched along with other volunteers. >> being in this area is very,
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very rough with me. his family was out here for months and months and months. to find out that the ending was so tragic. >> avonte's case became a rallying cry. small fixes, track bracelets, swimming lessons, fences, could go a long way, in saving lives. >> when you have a young child who can't speak, doesn't know how to save himself, we thank you for any support you give us. >> support the federal government already provides for those with alzheimer's or dementia. it is why laurie mcelwane is on capitol hill . not amber alerts or the silver
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alerts used for adults with alzheimer's. and the police aren't always trained to search for them. >> some kids may be afraid of canines or sirens or helicopters. they might hide from searchers, not understanding they're lost or not understanding that somebody is trying to help them. >> compounding the pain, suspicion about the parents' role, when a child bolts. >> a lot of our parents are afraid to dial 911 for fear of being accused of neglect. we've had to go out and encourage parents to definitely call 911. if their child is ever missing. >> days after her daughter dyed in her arms, child protective services concluded that it was beth's fault. >> you were negligent? >> yes, they said i was negligent. >> but you were the mother with her every minute. >> i didn't take her to the bathroom with me.
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i didn't take my three children to the bathroom with me. >> and that was your act of negligence? >> yes. >> in the end, dilg was cleared but it is a hurt that will never heal. even after the family's joy at hannah's birth, a little girl who would be savannah's sister. >> i can't help but thinking what would she be now? she'd beat the odds. she talked to me. she told me that day that she loved me. she's so capable, i don't know where life would have taken her. >> joie chen, al jazeera. >> athat's hard to imagine. that's it for us at mairpt. please tell us what you think at you can talk to us on twitter or facebook. be sure to come back because we'll have more of "america tonight," tomorrow.
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>> new moms forced to choose. >> the united states does lag behind other countries on this. >> now a revolution in workers' rights... >> my story is so many peoples' story. >> that could decide the election. >> it can be different. "on target" tonight. power struggle in the middle east. with america caught in the middle, an execution upsets delicate alliances, put be two rivals often a dangerous collision course. president obama's biggest diplomatic achievement of 2015, the iran nuclear accord could be in trouble. things boiled over this weekend when sunni dominated saudi