tv Focus on Europe PBS February 20, 2016 6:00pm-6:31pm PST
damien: hello and a very warm welcome to this week's "focus on europe," where we go behind the big headlines to give you an insight into the lives of real europeans. i am damien mcguinness. thanks very much for joining us. on the programme today -- the refugees of sweden, who are living in a ski resort. the young people of france, enlisting to fight terror. and the danish town that has a beef with pork. one of the most explosive issues here in germany right now is how to find enough accommodation for all the asylum seekers who are arriving. 1.1 million migrants and refugees came last year, and so
far it looks like numbers this year could be just as high. some are living in school sports halls. others in what look like shipping containers. but the country that is taking in the most people compared to the size of its population is sweden. where there is no lack of space, but there is a lack of suitable housing. which is why asylum laws are being tightened up. but also why some refugees from the middle east are being sent right up to the arctic. they're not only experiencing their first snowy winter, but also having to get used to living in a ski resort. reporter: rasha el hassan likes being outdoors, but here, she doesn't leave the house with her kids much. and no wonder. in winter here, temperatures often fall to minus 20 degrees celsius or lower -- and the daylight is brief. the cold quickly numbs her to the bone, but she looks at the positive side.
>> we didn't ever have cold like this in syria. it's kind of nice. back home, we sometimes wished that it would snow. reporter: rasha's son eisa, on the other hand, just can't seem to get enough winter. he's learned to love sledding. >> i don't think it's too cold. sometimes i go out sledding for hours. but at night it gets really cold! my hands freeze! reporter: a few months ago, around 600 refugees ended up here -- at the riksgränsen ski resort in lappland, 200 kilometers north of the arctic circle. the icy northern reaches of scandinavia are arguably europe's last great wilderness. in the depths of winter, the sun doesn't rise at all here.
it's a world of ice and snow. an environment that's breathtaking yet inhospitable. the settlement is made up of a huddle of vacation homes, a hotel and a supermarket. there's nothing else here. the skiing season only gets going when the days grow a little lighter. so why not open the hotel to asylum seekers until then? that's what manager sven kuldkepp thought, little guessing that just a few days later he would be hosting 600 people from 23 different countries. the swedish government pays around 35 euros per day per person, just enough to cover costs. but kuldkepp isn't interested in profiting from the situation. in the four months since they've arrived, the refugees have come to regard him as a father figure. he looks after everyone, and everything. >> you could see in their eyes
that they were traumitized. one way sad, one way glad as well. now i see happy eyes everywhere. reporter: and the refugees are also helping themselves. shahd kiani from iran is a tae kwon do teacher. now she gives classes to children from syria and afghanistan. her husband mehrdad helps out. their relationship had no chance in shahd's home country. >> i left iran and applied for asylum in sweden because i had married an afghan. in iran, my husband never would been given the opportunity to study. and he never would have been able to find decent work. reporter: now, the first refugees are being moved to new quarters in order to free up rooms for the skiers arriving in the next few weeks. sweden is struggling to house the 160,000 people who have fled here. authorities have tightened regulations.
but residency restrictions for refugees -- which some politicians are calling for in germany -- won't be happening in sweden. >> those that have already had their asylum applications approved, can go to stay with friends and family members that already live here -- mostly sweden's big cities. reporter: but there are still long waiting times. the immigration office is understaffed -- processing is slow. rasha desperately wants to take swedish language courses and then begin training to become a cook. she wants to stay here -- far away from the horrors of the self-styled "islamic state". >> we lived under i.s. rule for two and a half years in raqqa. they confiscated all my father's assets. i went to court and that's why they came after me. reporter: as the cold and dark winter drags on, so does the
wait for official paperwork. everyone here tries to cope the best they can. some try to just stay as active as possible. rasha's oldest son mohammad tries to help out, where he can. her daughter ritag loves the makeshift school. we're not allowed to film here, but she tells us about her classes. >> i don't know the swedish alphabet -- i haven't learnt it yet. but they gave us books, and they help us write. what is that? this is a lamp. reporter: the only link with the outside world is a supermarket 5 minutes away. it's a completely foreign world, and most things here are barely affordable for the asylum seekers. >> we didn't have time to prepare anything, to adjust.
but it went well, and people are so grateful to be here, to have somewhere to live. reporter: the next morning, after four months of waiting, the first busses leave rikgränsen. they're heading to haparanda, near the border with finland. once again, it means saying farewell and it's another journey into the unknown. but this time they take their memories of rikgränsen with them -- a place in a desert of ice and snow. damien: the refugees will still come across a lot of ice and snow in their new home near the finnish border, but at least they will see a few more people. they're going from a village with some 50 inhabitants to a small town now of nearly 5000 people. the past year has been traumatic for france. during 2015 the country was hit
by a series of brutal islamist terror attacks. these have left many french people feeling insecure. and, as the battle against the so-called islamic state in the middle east intensifies, there are growing fears of further attacks in the west from i.s. as a result the french security authorities have been given more powers of surveillance. but another reaction is that increasing numbers of young people are opting to join in the battle against terror by signing up to fight themselves. reporter: jordan fornara trained six weeks for this day. now he has to prove that he's fit enough to become a soldier. >> there's a chance it could go wrong. but i've got confidence, i know i'm good at sport, so it should be all right. reporter: the obstacle course is one of the last tests at the selection center in lyon. jordan wanted to be a soldier
but joined the police academy to please his mother. after last year's attacks, he decided to join the army to defend his country. >> i'm really motivated to join the army. reporter: and there are more and more young french who feel the same. since the attack on "charlie hebdo" in january and the november attacks across paris, the number of applicants has almost doubled. >> i want to protect my family, my friends and my country too. i want to serve. my patriotic side has become stronger, as has my will to join. >> we want to be present, protect the people. we're feeling a bit vulnerable. we want to be on the streets, so the french feel protected. there's a feeling of insecurity. it's the army's job to be there and to show that we're there.
reporter: jordan and the other applicants spend two days being tested to show that they have stamina, can deal with stress and think logically.t the end in personal interviews. the first sergeant -- who cannot be named here for security reasons -- wants to get an exact impression of jordan's personality. jordan tells him that he appreciates the army's values, the discipline and the fighting. he wants to be a paratrooper or go into the infantry. he says that soldiers have fought for france's security and freedom in the past. he wants to do the same. jordan lives with his parents in the small village of septèmes-les-vallons near marseille. he wants to move out and start his life as a soldier as soon as possible.
his mother is more aware of the dangers that soldiers face when they risk their lives for their country. but she's accepted her son's career choice. >> i didn't want him to leave. i'm scared. he's my son. i didn't bring him into the world so he would go to war and get killed. >> i'm proud of course because if he joins the army, it will be for france, for his country. it's motivated young people who are shaping france's future, but i hope we're not going to enter a war. reporter: the next applicants present themselves at this recruiting office in marseille. since the attacks the army has created new jobs and has had no problems finding interested candidates.
>> we've have moving emails saying after what happened they want to serve their country, to help, because it's not right -- they had basically discovered their patriotic soul. reporter: but it's a tough job that calls for soldiers to be ready to serve 24/7. this first sergeant explains that the army means sacrifices. at the beginning there will be little sleep, strict rules, separation from family and friends. most of the applicants had been toying with the idea for some time. the paris attacks helped them make the final decision. >> it's not that i think there won't be any terrorism because i'm joining up, but i think i can help to support my country and that's what i like. >> they had an impact on all of us, in france, abroad as well. of course, as french people we feel particularly affected and implicated so we want to do something for our country.
reporter: jordan and his new friend anthony are joined by the need to fulfill a mission. they met at the recruitment office in marseille. anthony is going to lyon for the selection process tomorrow so jordan is giving him tips. when they talk about the future they can picture themselves on the frontline already. >> when i think about the attacks, thinking it could have been me or a member of my family, it feels weird. that's why i want to be part of the army, to defend people close to me. reporter: the army represents a great adventure and the opportunity to do something useful. in a few days they'll find out if it was all worth it, whether the army wants them. for now, they're not thinking about the risks this could entail.
damien: many of us remember the fall of communism in eastern europe in the early 1990's as a time of euphoria, as whole nations suddenly became free. but it was also a time of shocking revelations. i'm sure many of you still have memories of the appalling images on tv of orphanages and children's homes in romania. showing malnourished babies and children, traumatised by abuse and neglect. karte for decades romania's repressive regime had tried to increase the population by banning birth control, and forcing women to have as many children as possible. and in many cases more than they could look after. as a result large numbers of children ended up in these brutal children's homes. particularly those with physical or mental disabilities. but more than two decades later, what's happened to those children? our reporter in romania has been to meet some of the survivors to find out.
reporter: this 19th century manor house in romania, the cighid orphanage, has become a symbol of the horrors perpetrated by nicolae ceauescu's communist regime. it was called an orphanage, but it was really a place children were sent to die from neglect. today the old building is shut up and crews aren't permitted to film here. but we came here nonetheless -- together with calin lacatus. now 31, he was sent here as a young child -- to die. >> they picked up the corpses with that. you can still see the tractor back there, can you see it? back then many children died from starvation or the cold. everything was full of excrement. that room back there was salon number 2. it was full of rats, which even attacked young children.
reporter: in the spring of 1990, german journalists shot these shocking images which were broadcast around the world. taken at the cighid orphanage, they showed children who were malnourished, chained up and locked away. the pictures revealed the madness of the ceauescu regime, which had collapsed the previous december. the romanian dictator wanted his country to produce many children -- but those deemed mentally or physically disabled had no place in his communist paradise. over 130 children died in cighid's infamous orphanage. many others have been scarred for life. 26 years later, just a handful of theses children are living halfway normal lives, like calin and his friends renate and joschka. they live and work in a town nearby, but are still haunted by the past. >> we're constantly followed by our past. it's a heavy burden that we'll
bear for the rest of our lives. reporter: many of the children once found living in deplorable conditions still live in cighid, in a new building next to the old orphanage. calin visits them now and then. today they're cared for by professional doctors and therapists. the home's director daniela nistor started working here just after the iron curtain fell. she and her team employed therapies that have eased patients' suffering. >> back then the children here were deemed incurable and left to their own devices. so when help finally came it was too late for many. the conditions today are nothing like those of the past. but there's still very little state support. without foreign aid, from germany in particular, we couldn't manage. reporter: in his new life calin
lacatus must get by on what he earns himself. though he trained as a plumber, he could only find work as a cleaner at the local market. he makes just 160 euros a month -- a starvation wage, even in romania. but he's not complaining and the vendors like him. >> i hope he makes it. he's had a tough life, yet he's hard-working and clean. many kids from intact families don't have his ambition. reporter: reintegrating into society and leading ordinary lives isn't easy for renate, joschka and calin. as well as struggling to make ends meet, they have few friends. they feel being children from cighid has branded them for life. >> we're trying to get on with our own lives as best as we can. what's done is done, we want to forget. but people always keep asking us what it was like there -- and then the memories come flooding back.
reporter: so renate, joschka and calin mostly keep to themselves. they cook together and talk every day. sometimes claudia marc, a psychologist who works for a german charitable foundation, pays them a visit. she helps them with financial as well as psychological issues. but mainly she's there to help them come to grips with their traumatic childhoods. >> sometimes they're just exhausted, lose hope and are sad. the only thing we can do then is to cheer them up, restore their hope and trust. that's our duty. reporter: not far from the old orphanage, calin shows us a little cemetery. the 137 crosses and this memorial stone are reminders of the children who died in cighid.
none of those responsible for their deaths were ever brought to justice. damien: dreadful. the treatment of those children was bad enough. but it must make it even worse for the survivors that no one has been held accountable. but now to denmark -- growing up in england, one of the few things i knew about denmark when i was young was that all the bacon came from there. scandinavian crime dramas hadn't yet hit british tv screens. today farming pigs and eating pork are still both seen as traditional parts of danish life. but as denmark also struggles with large numbers of refugees and migrants, in one region a cultural war has now broken out over whether pork should be on the menu in kindergartens. now that's because many of the asylum seekers come from muslim countries, and islam traditionally forbids eating pork. so in the danish town of randers
the humble meatball has become a totemic issue when it comes to migration. about who should adapt more, the asylum seeker or the host country. reporter: a hearty meal of meatballs and potatoes washed down with beer -- something every healthy dane needs every day -- so some would have you believe, at least. these three members of the right-wing danish people's party have sparked a row over the position of pork in the wake of mass immigration. >> it's claimed integration would improve by people not eating pork. we say no. we don't want to see consideration for others meaning items from our culinary culture disappearing. we want to keep our meatballs and pork. reporter: as this kindergarten will be doing, for example. the randers city council passed a motion proposed by the danish people's party for canteens in public buildings to include pork dishes on their menus.
mikael mouritsen is a father, a local politican, and an opponent of the decision. >> local authorities in denmark have to provide children with healthy and nutritious meals. eating the same food also helps to give everyone a common foundation. we say the people's party opinion that pork should have priority is wrong. reporter: in fact only a tiny minority of denmark's daycare centers have stopped serving pork. but kindergarten canteens in randers will have to serve pork on a regular basis, despite warm lunches for children not being a tradition. >> this is pure symbolism. what they actually want to say to muslims is, you have to adapt and eat pork.
reporter: what has been dubbed the "meatball war" is a welcome development for danish politicians eager to compromise the appeal of the country to refugees. as this local story hits the headlines across the world, what they have succeeded in doing is compromising denmark's general image. >> the government set out to give denmark a bad image abroad. they've used advertisements in newspapers to put people off coming here, and warning of changes to family reunification laws. now they also have to weather out the reactions that will result. reporter: there is also new national legislation to discourage immigration. refugees will now have to surrender valuables and cash above 10,000 kroner or around 1,300 euros. they will also have to wait two years longer for their families to join them. suddenly declaring pigs and pork a national symbol is an additional intimidatory and
incendiary measure, aimed specifically at muslim migrants -- although those who triggered the meatball war, here in randers town hall, see things differently. >> we talk to people on the street, and they're worried about what's happening in denmark and europe. they're asking whether the culture of our little country is slowly and silently disappearing. reporter: while the rest of the world wonders, is this about genuine concern for national identity, or warding off muslim refugees? the meatball war unleashed here has certainly generated a lot of attention for this quiet part of northeast denmark. damien: it's interesting that many european countries are struggling with the idea that migrants might have an impact on local cultures. what do you think? should host countries be more open to change?
or is it the migrants themselves who bear the most responsibility to adapt? it's a controversial issue that all europeans seem to be struggling with and also something the united states have experience with. i'd love to know your thoughts. join the conversation as they say on twitter. or feel free to get in touch on "focus on europe's" facebook page. or you can also email me via the programme's homepage. but for now, that's all for today. so it's goodbye from me and the whole team, and do join us again next week on "focus on europe," same time, same place. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
steves: a selection of ferries make the 50-mile crossing between helsinki and tallinn nearly hourly. because of the ease of this delightful two-hour cruise and the variety a quick trip over to estonia adds to your nordic travels, pairing helsinki and tallinn is a natural. stepping off the boat in tallinn, the capital of estonia, you feel you've traveled a long way culturally from finland. its a mix of east and west. tallinn's nordic lutheran culture and language
connect it with stockholm and helsinki, but two centuries of czarist russian rule and nearly 50 years as part of the soviet union have blended in a distinctly russian flavor. fins and estonians share a similar history. first, swedish domination, then russian. then independence after world war i. until 1940, the estonians were about as affluent as the fins, but then estonia was gobbled up by an expanding soviet empire and spent the decades after world war ii under communism. when the ussr fell, estonia regained its freedom, and in 2004, it joined the european union. tallinn has modernized at an astounding rate since the fall of the soviet union. its business district shines with the same glass and steel gleam you'll find in any modern city. yet nearby are the rugged and fully intact medieval walls, and the town within these ramparts has a beautifully preserved old-world ambiance.
among medieval cities in the north of europe, none are as well preserved as tallinn. the town hall square was a marketplace through the centuries. its fine old buildings are a reminder that tallinn was once an important medieval trading center. today it's a touristy scene, full of people just having fun. through the season, each midday, cruise-ship groups congest the center as they blitz the town in the care of local guides. like many tourist zones, tallinn's is a commercial gauntlet. here there's a hokey torture museum, strolling russian dolls, medieval theme restaurants complete with touts, and enthusiastic hawkers of ye olde taste treats. woman: [ laughs ] steves: but just a couple blocks away is, for me, the real attraction of tallinn -- workaday locals enjoying real freedom and better economic times. still-ramshackle courtyards host inviting cafés.