tv Focus on Europe PBS November 14, 2015 6:00pm-6:31pm PST
♪ christopher: a very warm welcome to "focus on europe" -- the program that puts the continent in context and gives you the individual stories behind the headlines. my name's christopher springate, and i'll be taking you right across europe again this week, revealing among other things why indian immigrants have become so crucial to the production of italy's famous parmesan cheese. here's what's coming up over the next half-hour -- making money out of desperation -- bulgaria's people-smugglers. cleaning up the neighborhood -- lisbon's african poor face homelessness. and volkswagen's emissions scandal -- the french want their money back. one man's tragedy is another
man's opportunity, according to an old asian proverb. and that certainly applies to europe's migration crisis at the moment. as thousands of refugees continue to flow northwards -- fleeing the bloody conflicts in their home countries -- people-smugglers are taking advantage of them at every turn. the most ruthless among them are in bulgaria. the traffickers there draw on decades of experience, smuggling drugs and other goods between europe and turkey. and now they've turned their attention to humans, demanding thousands of euros to take them to the town of vidin, on bulgaria's border with serbia. in this exclusive report for "focus on europe," dw's paul tutsek tracked down a people-smuggler in the capital sofia, to get an inside view of what's going on. >> bulgaria's capital sofia is one of the hubs for smuggling routes into europe. we have to use a hidden camera. it shows them unloading their human cargo right under the noses of the law.
it's a business worth billions of euros -- enough to pay off police officers and other officials. >> of course, it works best if we pay off the police -- how else? we test them and pick times when they're on duty. nighttime is best, because not as many cops are out on patrol. >> this man has been a smuggler for about half a year. he doesn't want to reveal his identity. he's taking a big risk in a business where violence is commonplace. officially, he's a martial arts coach. he used to be a cop and then a bodyguard. but he says he got rich as a people smuggler. thousands of refugees are on the move from turkey into western europe. the smuggling routes were already well-traveled. >> they're the same channels that were used for running drugs to serbia.
now the same people are handling refugees -- these taliban coming in. >> the smugglers bring the refugees in cars and mini-vans from the turkish border to sofia, generally at night. their well-being is not a consideration. many people are said to be getting cuts of the business, even taxi drivers. we ask a few, once again using a hidden camera. >> no, we're not telling you anything. we're taxi drivers, and we drive anyone wherever they want. >> residents say, with so many refugees pouring in from the middle east this year, the center of sofia has changed radically. every day, the smugglers carry an estimated five hundred refugees through the city. fears -- the city. fears are growing of what many here see as criminals on their doorsteps. >> nobody goes out on the street in the evenings any more -- not
my life and not me. there are constant fights and stabbings, bloodshed and beatings going on. >> reporter stefan tashev has been monitoring the smuggling structures for half a year now under cover. stefan: the people on this street are on the lowest level. they drive the refugees up here from the turkish border. >> from sofia, many smugglers move on to vidin on the danube, close to the serbian border. it's the last stop on the bulgarian leg. refugees who entrust their lives to the smugglers take a high risk. the smugglers give no guarantees. all that counts is the money. our source tells us the business is booming -- and it's organized on strict hierarchical lines. >> our whole city lives off people smuggling alone. there are some twenty brigades in vidin. the top bosses make between 50000 and euros a month.
100,000the mid-level boys already own palaces -- enormous houses, that they paid for within a year. they drive cars worth two hundred thousand euros. >> according to our source, it was influential arabs who built the network. some had come to bulgaria as exchange students during the communist era. the smugglers call them the "legals." >> yes, exactly -- the legals. the legal syrians have their leaders who know what they're doing, and they work together with the bulgarians. >> now bulgaria has imposed tougher penalties, but that doesn't seem to have deterred the people smugglers. our source takes us to see where the refugees slip through to serbia. the border patrol shows up immediately, but smuggler and patrolmen are old acquaintances. he gets off with a warning and drives away -- to help plan the next operation on the serbian border.
christopher: our next report takes us to portugal for a story about a desperately poor neighborhood that's about to become even poorer. on the western outskirts of the capital lisbon, you'll find the suburb of amadora, a chaotic shanty town built illegally by immigrants from the country's former african colonies. its narrow streets are colorful and friendly by day, but riddled with crime at night. relations between the local inhabitants and police are fraught. now, amadora's always been a thorn in the side of the local authorities. so, in a bid to clean up the neighborhood for property developers, they've now begun sending in the demolition crews. it's a controversial move that threatens the livelihoods of many residents. >> these dancers brought the batuque with them to portugal from the cape verde islands. the dance was once banned on the islands -- the colonial government considered it too
african. absorbed in the music, the women have a chance to forget for a moment their everyday worries and problems in their new home country. and there are plenty of worries in the african neighborhoods on the outskirts of lisbon. the corrugated-iron huts were built without permits. many of these neighborhoods are more than 30 years old. the authorities have long cast a jaundiced eye on the illegal settlements. now they are going ahead with their demolition plans. this fate could strike francelina fernandes at any time. her neighbor's house was recently torn down. francelina: i can't sleep anymore. the authorities could turn up on my doorstep any day and tell me i have to go. but where should i go? we have no other place.
sometimes they come with the police, take everything out of the house, and tear it down. >> the demolition policy is so controversial that the municipal administration no longer gives interviews about it. it informs us in writing that the living conditions in these favelas are degrading and that the people affected by the measures would receive government assistance. but the reality is different. the excavators show up early in the morning. residents often don't even have time to rescue their meager belongings. journalists are held at a distance. after all, pictures like these are damaging to portugal's image as a model of integration. the demolition campaign comes at a difficult time for the people in the slums.
the economic crisis in portugal has cost many of them their jobs. rita silva says most of them are unable to pay higher rent. her citizens' initiative habita supports the residents here. only a fraction of them have actually been allotted the promised public housing. many families find themselves suddenly turned out into the street. rita: those in power simply want to drive away and get rid of the workers, the poor, the immigrants, the black people. they want to replace them with people that have a higher income and can fuel the real estate market. that's the primary goal of the municipal administration in amadora city. >> the authorities' hard-nosed policy serves the interests of private real estate funds.
these funds already own smart new construction tracts in the immediate proximity. but who buys an apartment with a view of a slum? many people dwelling in the favelas are upset about high rates of drug trafficking and crime, but they also complain about increasing police brutality and raids. celso lopez was recently shot in the leg with a rubber bullet. he says the police beat him up and insulted him with racist remarks. the court case is still in process. celso: i think it's all a big plot. they want to destroy our neighborhood. ultimately, the real estate industry is behind it. the police only pretend that it has anything to do with crime.
>> we visited francelina fernandes at home. sixty years old, she works as a cook and cleaning lady. 500 euros a month is enough for her to get by --- as long as she can remain in her favela. francelina: on my income, i can't afford to pay three or four hundred euros in rent. it's just not possible. water, electricity, food, medicine, and then i send money to my family in cape verde. it's just not possible. >> for the immigrants from the former colonies, life in portugal is difficult. they've long been pushed to the margins of society -- but soon there will be no place for them even there.
christopher: "made in germany." those words have always been a rock-solid promise of quality, reliability and skilful workmanship. for decades, people across the globe have trusted in the honest values behind that promise. and then -- a few weeks ago -- the volkswagen emissions scandal broke out into the open. the german carmaker admitted it had been installing special software in its diesel vehicles that manipulated the results of pollution tests. that admission dealt a heavy blow to the company's reputation, affecting both the beloved vws and the other makes that contain vw engines, like skoda for instance. or audi. we're going to take you to france now, where german cars have long been grudgingly viewed as the gold standard. now though, many are having second thoughts.
>> hard-wearing and meticulously tested - the volkswagen brand used to conjure up positive qualities in french minds -- qualitis they regarded as typically german. the vw emissions scandal has shocked many of them, including sebastien lameyre. he thought he was buying a clean, safe vehicle when he bought his skoda, a brand that's part of the vw group. >> i bought a german car because the germans are regarded as reliable and honest. but none of it is true. their cars exceed emissions norms forty-fold. i hardly dare to put my young daughter in the car. >> lameyre's daughter has a chronic lung condition. with her in mind, he chose a vehicle that was said to have particularly low emissions of nitrogen oxide. >> let me introduce my daughter heloise. she breathes through a tracheostomy.
you can't cheat that. the carbon monoxide goes directly into her lungs and then into her blood. a computer program can't stop that. >> almost one million cars in france are affected by the vw emissions-fixing scandal. a recall campaign has been announced. owners will have their vehicles refitted. but lameyre wants his money back. >> volkswagen are burying their head in the sand. they haven't answered me. that shows that they don't have a technical solution for this problem. >> many french drivers share his opinion and are suing volkswagen. some 3,000 of them have approached a high-profile lawyer who specializes in representing consumers in cases involving big corporations. the plaintiffs' grievances are not purely financial. >> this is not just about the financial damage.
compensation will have to be paid for that. but people have also been misled by volkswagen. volkswagen has to pay for the moral damage. and vw has to pay the court costs. >> up to now, vw was france's best-loved foreign brand. and some people's faith remains unshaken even now. the beetle, the vw's most famous car ,enjoys a particularly loyal following. this driver says he's clocked up 400,000 km in his. in the beetles' club, there are even conspiracy theories making the rounds. >> vw is the number one worldwide. that's why they're getting a drubbing now. it's not a coincidence. envy is also playing a role. i'm sticking with volkswagen.
and i'm sure that if volkswagen did manipulate things, then other car companies have probably done exactly the same. >> but vw didn't just make headlines in france because of the emissions fixing scandal itself. two agencies responsible for placing vw advertising in france also tried to muzzle the french press. according to the journalists involved, the agencies refused to place ads in newspapers unless they agreed to drop reports critical towards volkswagen. the french reacted with satire rephrasing vw's international , slogan volkswagen --das auto, with c02 -- das problem. the company and germans in general have become the butt of french jokes. >> germany is regarded as very straight. germany doesn't have any debts.
in germany, there are no strikes. when something does go wrong in germany, even the most intelligent people feel a certain schadenfreude. it might be foolish, but it's true. >> vw's shiny german image has become tarnished. it'll probably take some time before the french -- and other nations as well -- forget the scandal. sebastian lameyre, meanwhile, is looking for another car for his family. the cost for changing the car, he says, is vw's responsibility. christopher: so, a very unhappy vw customer there, and he's not alone -- an estimated 11 million diesel vehicles are affected, in countries across the world. and this week, the scandal even widened, with vw revealing there were also what it called inconsistencies with the carbon emissions of some of its petrol engines.
so, what are your thoughts -- would you still buy a volkswagen? or have you lost all faith in the vw family of vehicles? and beyond that -- how seriously has this d d d germany's reputation as a nation of world-class engineers? send us your views and comments, via email or facebook. and you'll find me -- as ever -- on twitter, @springontheroad. it's an astonishing figure. almost 220 000 migrants reached europe by sea last month, according to the united nations. and what makes it astonishing is this -- it matches the number of refugees that reached european shores during the entire 12 months of last year. so it's perhaps no surprise that some europeans are building fences while others are playing on anti-foreigner sentiment as they try to discourage fresh arrivals. well, to all those who are daunted, it sometimes pays to take a look at the effect mass immigration has had in the past.
take the po valley in italy for instance, a region famous for florets parmesan cheese. thousands of indians have emigrated there in recent decades, fleeing conflict in the province of punjab. and now -- believe it or not -- the production of parmesan is almost unthinkable without them! >> no, this is not india, despite how it looks. nor is it britain, whose colonial history makes it home to many indians. this is italy, the po valley. the small town of luzzara lies in the region that produces parmesan cheese and holds a protected designation of origin on it. parmesan has made the region rich. dairies are everywhere here. but what's unusual is that more than 60 percent of the men working in the stables are ethnic indians. the cows can be glad -- many indians consider cows holy and
treat them well. but the indians are happy here, too. whole families have come here in recent decades -- especially from the agricultural punjab region. in luzzara, one-seventh of the population is of indian descent. one of them is pal. pal: i came here in 2000, looking for work. that's when italy first opened its doors to legal immigants. you had to make a security deposit of about 5000 euros for living costs in italy. if you found a job within a year, you were allowed to stay. otherwise, the deposit was used to pay for your plane ticket home. >> since then, pal has worked his way up from stable boy to cheese-maker. he's proud that he and his fellow indians maintain the quality and reputation of parmesan cheese.
pal's boss, vincenzo manfredini, world. producing parmesan cheese would be very difficult without the indians, who work diligently, reliably, and cheaply. and the former refugees have integrated well in italian society, so the italians respect them. >> pal consciously chose not send his children to the public kindergarten. he thinks there are too many indian children there, and he's afraid that his kids would end up speaking only the "old-country" language. he wants to prevent that, so he sends them to the catholic kindergarten, where the great majority of the hildren are italians. that forces them to speak italian. about 60,000 ethnic indians live >>about 60,000 ethnic indians liv in the po valley, home to te second-largest indian community in europe, after the united
kingdom. the neighboring town of novellara is the home of europe's second-largest sikh temple. 2,000 worshippers come here every sunday. there have never been any complaints from the italian neighbors. in 2012, when a severe earthquake struck italy's emilia-romagna region, the sikhs provided rapid aid. amrit: our temple's dining hall is always open around the clock anyway, so we were able to feed earthquake victims at all times. and then we saw that the red cross had too few ambulances. so we donated one to their section in novellara. >> anyone can visit the sikh temple -- buddhists, hindus, catholics, protestants, and even nonreligious people. the only requirements are to take off your shoes, wash your feet, and put on a turban. the rules are flexible. for an italian, a loosely tied bandana is sometimes enough.
so northern italy has succeeded in doing something that currently seems so difficult in europe -- integration without force or legislated programs. these children are in the third generation of indians living in emilia romagna. the immigration began 30 years ago, when civil war raged in punjab. in 1984, the golden temple -- the most holy site of the sikhs -- was stormed and burned down by indian government troops. now these punjabis pray here. amrit: the best time to pray is very early in the morning, from 3:00 a.m. on, when most people are still sleeping. that's when you can concentrate best. and that's also exactly when work in the stables begins. so getting up very early to work in the stable helps believers practice their religion.
>> and the cows are happy, too. praying and working aren't mutually exclusive for hindus and sikhs. they are supposed to pray five times a day, three of them early in the morning, no problem for someone working in a stable. at 6:00 in the morning, when the milk is being processed, more than half of his religious duty is already fulfilled. christopher: so next time you take a bite out of a delicious piece of fresh parmesan or grate it over your pasta, spare a thought for those hard-working indian immigrants, milking those happy and sacred cows at 3:00 in the morning! where would europe be without its immigrants? many of them enrich our societies and economies. that's all for this week from "focus on europe" -- we'll be back next week, of course. in the meantime, send us your views and comments on any of our reports.