July 22-29, 2019

U.S. Asylum Policy Developments

An appeals court ruled last Monday against the Administration's policy of holding asylum seekers in detention throughout their immigration proceedings. The rule will remain suspended, allowing for asylum seekers to be released on bond until their immigration court date, unless a higher court reinstates it. On Wednesday, a Federal judge in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction against the Administration's separate third-country rule, which would disqualify any asylum seeker who had not tried and failed to obtain asylum in another country before arriving in the United States. The rule will remain blocked through the remainder of the ongoing litigation. Last Tuesday, the Administration threatened to raise tariffs on trade with Guatemala, and to tax remittances from Guatemalan refugees in the United States, if it does not comply with a U.S. plan to designate it as a safe third country, which were followed by threatening remarks from the President on the next day. On Thursday, reports surfaced that the Administration was considering imposing a travel ban on all Guatemalans attempting to visit the United States, and on Friday, Guatemala signed a ““Cooperation Agreement for the Assessment of Protection Requests” agreement with the United States. It is not yet clear how the agreement will function, whether Guatemalan courts will allow it to enter into action, or whether Guatemala's next presidential administration, to be elected next month, will honor the deal.

Sources: TheHill, NPR, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the New York Times, Reuters. 

U.S. Border Management & Detention

A report surfaced last Monday that U.S. border authorities have begun using DNA testing to verify family connections when adults and children arrive at the border together. On the same day, negotiations broke down in the Senate between Republicans, trying to codify the Administration's recent asylum rules into law, and Democrats who effectively blocked alterations that would have made it more difficult to request asylum in the United States, and easier to extend the length of detention of asylum seekers. On the same day, reports emerged that Customs and Border Protection's internal watchdog agency is investigating allegations of abuse against a girl detained in the Clint detention facility, pursuant to a report made in March of this year. Reports emerged last week of U.S. military personnel working as guards in migrant detention facilities, in a possible breach of the principle of posse comitatus, whereby U.S military personnel cannot be deployed on domestic soil in peacetime to assist in law enforcement tasks.

Sources: CNN, Politico, NBC News, the Independent.


Syrian Refugees in Turkey

Advocacy groups have denounced hundreds of detentions and deportations of Syrian refugees in Turkey, especially in Istanbul, on the heels of this month's mayoral elections in Istanbul, where refugees were used as a wedge issue. Turkey's Interior Minister reported on Wednesday that, over the previous two weeks, authorities had detained just over 6.000 Syrians in Istanbul, whose residency permits only allowed them to stay in the province of entry, but not to relocate within Turkey, and insisted the following Monday that the measures were directed only at illegal immigration, not at refugees generally. Though there are about half a million Syrian refugees registered in Istanbul province, authorities estimate the actual population is twice as much. Turkish authorities have set a deadline of August 20 for all refugees in Turkey to return to their province of registration, and already carried out a substantial number of deportations directly back to Syria. UN officials in both Turkey and Lebanon have spoken out against measures that harm the protection and livelihoods of Syrian refugees in either country, and denounced allegations of refugees being forced to sign voluntary deportation agreements.

Sources: Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Anadolu News Agency, Reuters, Arab News, the Guardian.

Mediterranean Search-and-Rescue

French President Macron announced late last Monday that 14 EU countries have signed on to a solidarity mechanism to share burdens in the disembarkation and reception of asylum seekers rescued in the Mediterranean. An EU spokesperson also confirmed, early last week, that the EU suspended its support for Sudanese border control authorities in March due to concerns over human rights abuses and over the use of EU resources to repress peaceful protests. On Thursday, two boats carrying about 300 asylum seekers capsized off the Libyan coast, half of whom were rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard while the remainder are feared drowned, in what UNHCR has called the worst Mediterranean shipwreck thus far this year.

Sources: Al-Jazeera, Deutsche-Welle, NPR.

European Migration Trends

Albanian authorities reported an increase in interceptions of asylum seekers crossing from Greece into Albania this spring. Supported by Frontex, Albanian border police intercepted just under 7.000 irregular migrants in 2018, with border crossings slightly higher thus far in 2019. A report emerged on Thursday that while Italy has received 3.000 irregular arrivals directly from Libya, it received over 6.000 Dublin Returns last year, and many more Dublin Requests, suggesting that, even if Italy could stop all maritime arrivals, it would continue receiving asylum seekers for years to come. Last week, the European Commission referred Hungary's government to the European Court of Justice over elements of Hungary's “Stop Soros” law, which make it difficult for asylum seekers to obtain refugee status and criminalize certain elements of refugee assistance, for violating European asylum law and the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Sources: Reuters, Politico Europe, Al Jazeera,


Australian Migration Policy 

An independent health panel announced revealed last Monday that the vast majority of medical transfers from offshore migrant detention centers to the Australian mainland are the result of mental health issues. This Monday, longtime refugees in Australia gathered in front of Parliament in Canberra to protest the practice of issuing temporary protection to refugees who had arrived to Australia by boat prior to the current offshore detention policy's launch in 2013, and the difficulty in renewing humanitarian visas.

Sources: the Guardian, the Associated Press.

Joel Hernàndez