Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

Like many European countries, Germany wants to send more asylum seekers back home. The German parliament passed several laws on Thursday that make it easier to deport migrants. The day before, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government sent a charter plane filled with Afghan migrants back to Kabul.

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Are refugees still welcome in Denmark? Many Danes say yes, despite a new, controversial law requiring police to seize cash and other valuables from asylum seekers arriving in the Nordic country. There's widespread criticism in Denmark of the new law, even as many Danes are nervous about the rising number of asylum seekers.

The pretty Baltic port town of Sonderborg is one of many Danish communities sending mixed signals to asylum seekers these days. It hosts scores of migrants at an asylum center on the city's outskirts.

Denmark is expected to adopt a law on Tuesday requiring police to seize cash and other valuables from some asylum seekers as they enter the country.
The seizures, which would go toward defraying the cost of refugee care, are being widely criticized as a violation of human rights.

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At Johanna-Eck School in Berlin, the mission to educate and integrate migrants is taken seriously.

The student body is a jumble of nationalities and ethnicities highlighting Germany's evolving identity. Schoolyard conversations are held in more than a half-dozen languages, and greetings from all of them are painted on the school building's steps.

The moment on top of an Afghan mountain peak was one of bittersweet triumph for 20-year-old Shopirai Otmonkhel and her friend Zahra Karimi Nooristani, 18. The budding mountaineers from Kabul beamed with pride as they held up the Afghan flag after climbing to heights no Afghan woman had ever reached.

Nooristani — a shy athlete who earlier this year would blush and mumble when asked a question — spoke eloquently about how she'd discovered women can learn to do or be anything, whether it's mountain climbing or becoming a physician or teacher.

The Paris attacks are sparking fears in Europe that the Islamic State is hiding its operatives among the tens of thousands of refugees pouring into the European Union each month.

In Berlin, those fears are also troubling Syrian refugees, who worry they may be kicked out of Europe.

Samar Alalaly, for one, rejects those concerns. The 30-year-old Syrian mother of three, who arrived in Germany six weeks ago, says they don't make sense. "We ran away from war," she says. "We didn't come to make war here."

Chancellor Angela Merkel says Islam is an integral part of modern-day Germany. But that hasn't kept thousands of Muslim asylum seekers from giving up their faith to become Christians in recent years.

The reasons they convert are complicated. Take Daoud Rahimi, for instance.

The 20-year-old Afghan, who arrived in Germany a few months ago, was one of dozens of asylum seekers attending a recent baptism class at the evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church in a Berlin suburb.

Germany and Poland may not share a common language or currency, but they do share an open border.

Both are among the 26 European nations in what's known as the Schengen Area, and getting from one to the other is as simple as crossing a bridge over the Oder River by car or on foot.

No one has asked to see passports at this border crossing, 60 miles east of Berlin, since Poland joined the European Union in 2004. Nor does anyone check to see whether travelers are obeying custom rules.

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Here's an old way of thinking. Young people from prosperous families study abroad at some point. Young people from less prosperous families have no chance. It's pricey to travel overseas.

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Germany may be Europe's economic giant, but Berlin remains the lone major European capital without a proper airport. The mismanaged, roughly $6 billion project to build one became a national laughing stock that has dragged on for years.

Ground was broken on the airport in 2006 and the opening was delayed just shortly before the planned date in 2012. The airport's managers are now pledging that Germany's third-largest airport will open on the outskirts of Berlin before the end of 2017.

For pharmacists in ever-diverse Berlin, communicating with customers requires a variety of languages.

Just ask German pharmacist Julia al-Erian, who tries in English to engage a young Arab man who is trying to buy acne cream. He gives her a blank stare, so she tries explaining in German how the medicated lotion works.

He looks perplexed, says "hold on" in German, then turns to a friend and speaks Arabic.

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Looking to escape the staggering costs of a university education in the United States? You are not alone. And German education officials say a growing number of Americans are heading to the land of beer and bratwurst to get one.

At last count, there were 4,300 Americans studying at German universities, with more than half pursuing degrees, says Ulrich Grothus, deputy secretary general of the German Academic Exchange Service.

Like most former Soviet satellites, Poland has grown very suspicious of Russian intentions since the Kremlin annexed Crimea last year. Poles living near the 180-mile border their country shares with Russia became especially wary after their government, among others, accused Moscow of deploying nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad.

A team of 13 Afghan women is training to climb the country's highest mountain. Only two Afghans — both men — have ever made it to the 24,580-foot-high summit. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has been following the female mountaineers' progress. You can read and listen to the previous report here.

Krakow is one of Europe's top tourist destinations and attracts millions of visitors each year to soak up its history, culture and architecture. But its appeal wanes during colder months when another prominent feature of the Polish city is on display: air pollution.

Environmental officials say Krakow's air is among the most polluted in Poland, which in turn, has the most polluted air in the European Union.

And what's the source of the smog hanging over the city during colder months? It's not Polish industry, but rather residents who burn coal to keep warm.

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