June 23-July 1, 2019

U.S. Border Crisis

As criticism of conditions at border facilities continued to fester—including allegations of torture conditions by a visiting physician—the Department of Homeland Security announced it would move nearly 250 children from the notorious Clint CBP facility to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, after facing severe blowback from legal and medical professionals over conditions in Clint and other CBP facilities. About a dozen bodies have been found along the border over the last few weeks, including the photo of a drowned father and infant child whom Mexican newspapers are comparing to the photo of Aylan Kurdi. Over the week, the resignation of Customs and Border Commissioner acting Commissioner John Sanders, wrangling over humanitarian funding legislation between the House and Senate, and the return of children removed from Clint to the same facility revealed an Administration response in complete disarray. Parallel to this, Mexican officials revealed this week that the number of asylum seekers who have been returned to Mexico after lodging an asylum application in the US reached 15.000 this week, amid a court challenge to the “Remain in Mexico” policy where the labor union representing federal asylum officers, in an unusually direct challenge to the Administration which employs them, filed an amicus brief this week opposing the policy. On Thursday, Congress passed a bill funding $4.6 billion for humanitarian aid to the border, after wrangling between the Senate and House over the need for mechanisms to prevent the funds being diverted toward enforcement activities rather than providing for migrants’ needs, and on Friday the Administration announced that it predicted a 25% decrease in arrivals, though it gave few further details on this figure. A report emerged on Friday that the Administration may unveil new rules restricting asylum for petitioners arriving after transiting through a third country and expanding expedited removals for undocumented immigrants detained in border areas, without requiring a hearing before an immigration judge. UNICEF announced late last week the launch of a multi-state operation to protect refugee children in transit and after arrival to the United States.

Sources: ABC News, CNN, NPR, New York Magazine, L.A. Times, Texas Tribune, CBS News, New York Times, Forbes, BuzzFeed.

Venezuelan Migration Crisis

The European Asylum Support office revealed that European Free Trade Area countries have received 290.000 asylum applications between January and May 2019, an 11% increase compared to the same period last year. The surge was driven largely by a surge in asylum applications from Venezuela and Colombia, concentrated in Spain. A task force of the Organization of American States appealed for regional leaders to grant refugee status to arriving Venezuelans, reminding leaders of that the exodus is forecast to grow from the current 4 million to 8 million by the end of 2020.

Sources: Reuters, Associated Press.

First Global Refugees Forum Announced

UNHCR announced on Monday it would host its first-ever Global Refugees Forum on  December 17 and 18, 2019, under the auspices of the Global Compact on Refugees. The Forum will state and local governments, international and civil society organizations, the private sector, and host and refugee communities. 

Sources: UNHCR.

Australian Asylum Practices

At the beginning of this week, authorities in Manus Island announced they will press charges against an asylum seeker who attempted suicide by burning himself in his cell when he is discharged from hospital care. On Thursday, the U.S. President heaped praise on Australia's immigration system, stating that “much can be learned” from it.

Sources: the Guardian.

Mediterranean Search and Rescue

The Sea-Watch 3, a Dutch rescue vessel that had rescued 42 asylum seekers and refused to disembark them in Tripoli, defied a governmental ban on Wednesday, stating that after two weeks circling Italian waters awaiting authorization to dock, the situation on board had become dire, entered Italian territorial waters to disembark its passengers in Lampedusa. On Tuesday, following an emergency appeal from Sea Watch, the European Court of Human Rights declined to force the Italian government to allow the ship to enter Italian waters. While Italian authorities condemned the Sea Watch 3's course, ecclesiastical figures including the parish priest of Lampedusa and the Archbishop of Turin protested the government's policy, staging demonstrations in solidarity with the passengers on board and offering to take them in under the Church's supervision. On Friday, Sea-Watch 3 captain Carola Rakete ran an attempted blockade to the port of Lampedusa to access its docks, and was arrested immediately upon disembarking, under strong condemnation from Interior Minister Matteo Salvini who alleged her maneuver was reckless and could have led to the injury or death of officers on board the blockading ship. Following her arrest, German officials swiftly demanded that Italian authorities clarify the charges against Rackete, who is a German national.

Sources: the Guardian, ANSA, New York Times, Deutsche-Welle.

Incidents at Refugee Camps in Greece and Morocco

Twin incidents broke out late last week at the Moria Reception and Identification Center in Lesvos, and at the Oulad Ziane camp in Casablanca. In Moria, violence broke out on Friday reportedly over religious differences, and 13 young Afghan men were subsequently arrested. Lesvos has received over 1500 asylum seeker arrivals this June, compared to just over 1000 in June 2018. In Casablanca, violence broke out on Sunday over allegations of a stolen cell phone, descending into generalized violence until someone in the camp started a fire. Authorities report they were able to put out the fire, and that there were no fatalities as a result.

Sources: Ekathimerini, Agence France-Presse

Notable Reports Released in June:

Global Education Monitoring Report

UNESCO, 438 pages

UNESCO, in consortium with a dozen NGO, multilateral, and governmental partners, released its yearly Global Education Monitoring Report in mid-June. The report finds notable gains in the integration of migrant and refugee children into public education in developed countries, but also identifies substantial gaps in the mainstreaming of trauma-informed education in programming targeted at refugee children, vexing barriers to entry for refugee children in developing countries, concerted challenges schooling internally displaced children due to instability caused by conflict, and persistent underfunding of education in emergencies and humanitarian crises.

Fatal Journeys

International Organization for Migration, 170 pages

IOM's yearly Missing Migrants report focuses on the importance and difficulty of documenting child migrant deaths, due to a dearth of gender- and age-disaggregated data on migration in general, and details the ways in which child migrants are particularly vulnerable. The report also presents IOM's commitment to improve its data collection on child migrants, and unveils a tool to facilitate family linking in complex migration emergencies.

EASO Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the EU+ 2018

European Asylum Support Office, 272 pages

EASO's yearly report notes the EU's difficulty in reforming the Common European Asylum System, noting the outgoing Juncker Commission's failure to make good on its attempts to steer a reform of the Dublin Regulation or the Asylum Procedure Regulation. The report notes a 10% decrease in asylum applications lodged across EU+ countries (just under 650.000 in 2018) and a 39% acceptance rate at first instance (and signals that growing numbers of appeals and second instance decisions are growing the body of immigration case law in the EU). The report also notes the prominent role of the Court of Justice of the European Union in challenging actions and decisions of EU bodies and member states, noting that the Court's independence provides an important check on institutions across the EU. 

Structural Failure

RSA Aegean & Pro Asyl, 15 pages

Based largely on interviews with Greek officials and NGO workers, this report identifies the administrative failures that continue affecting Greece's ability to respond to asylum seeker arrivals on its outlying Aegean islands, deliver swift admissibility determinations, and provide prompt relocation to the Greek mainland for asylum seekers deemed vulnerable. It also details the shortcomings of the appropriation mechanisms created to channel EU funds toward governmental and NGO programs, and explores the reasons for shortfalls in healthcare provision on island ‘hotspots.’

The Detention of Immigrant Children with Disabilities in California: A Snapshot

Disability Rights California, 28 pages

This report details quality of care for children with disabilities and facing mental health challenges in Office of Refugee Resettlement child reception centers in California. It identifies a deterioration of conditions as the average length of stay in these centers has grown in recent weeks, as a result of both deliberate policy and logistical strain, but also notes a pre-existing lack of access to special education and social support for children with special needs. It also exposes a tendency to punish rather than treat children showing behavioral issues or attempting self-harm.

Adolescent Girls in Crisis: Voices from Beirut

Plan International, June 18, 2019

This report details Plan International's research into the security, well-being, and access to services and opportunities of adolescent Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon. It finds that this population is particularly vulnerable, suffering high rates of direct or indirect violence both within and beyond the family, and lacks sufficient access to education and livelihood opportunities.

Targeting solidarity 

Amnesty International, June 2019.

This report details institutional harassment directed against individuals, NGOs, and civil society organizations defending human rights in northern France, particularly those working with migrants and refugees. It finds that, while human rights defenders carry out crucial work in northern France, providing for migrants suffering deep deprivation, authorities treat human rights defenders with hostility, rather than recognition, and impose significant limits on their ability to serve their beneficiaries.

Notable Journal Releases

Forced Migration Review released Issue No. 61 in June, covering the ethics of forced migration and migration management policies and tools. 

Intervention Journal's January-June 2019 issue extensively covers trauma and psycho-social support provision in conflict and post-conflict settings, and humanitarian interventions.