August 19-26, 2019

U.S. Migration Policy Developments

U.S. envoy to Latin America Mauricio Claver-Carone suggested last week that, as part of the tentative safe third-country agreement with Guatemala, U.S. authorities could triple the number of temporary work visas issued to Guatemalan farm workers. Reports emerged last week that the Administration is preparing to unveil a rule that would disqualify asylum seekers who entered the United States by irregular means from obtaining work permits as they await a ruling on their asylum petition. Parallel reports emerged that the United States is negotiating a safe third-country agreement with Panama to reduce migration up Central America and toward the United States. Mexican Foreign Minister Ebard reiterated last week that Mexico would continue resisting any moves toward signing a safe third-country agreement with the United States.

Sources: Reuters, BuzzFeed, the Washington Post, Channel News Asia. 

U.S. Border Management & Detention

Immigration advocates are working to reinstate a national order against the Administration’s third-country rule, which bars asylum seekers from lodging claims unless they tried and failed to obtain asylum in a country of prior transit. This follows on an appeals court upholding a prior order against the rule, but only in California and Arizona, which fall within its jurisdiction meaning that, for the time being, asylum seekers arriving in Texas and New Mexico will be subject to the rule. Reports emerged last week of new rules to be unveiled soon regarding migration detention, that would effectively invalidate the Flores Agreement regulating child care in U.S. migrant detention facilities, while allowing the Administration to substantially expand the detention of arriving asylum seekers. A complaint filed last week by the Women’s Refugee Commission with the Department of Homeland Security alleges multiple allegations of the Remain in Mexico policy being used to separate families at the border, keeping minors in detention within the United States while sending parents or adult siblings back to Mexico to await asylum proceedings. Customs and Border Protection announced last week that it would not provide flu vaccinations at migrant detention centers.

Sources: Bloomberg, Texas Observer, Politico, NBC News.

Venezuelan Refugee Crisis

Colombian Foreign Minister Trujillo complained last week that the Venezuelan refugee crisis, and in particular the response in Colombia, are severely underfunded, and demanded greater support from the international community. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Grandi echoed the appeal last week, after having to cancel his visit to Paracaimba due to protests by locals against the arrival of 500 displaced Venezuelans per day. Canada announced it would loosen barriers to asylum rejection appeals, and loosen documentation requirements at ports of entry, to make it easier for Venezuelans to enter and obtain asylum in Canada.

Sources: Reuters, Global News.

UK Immigration Policy in the Spotlight

An anonymous asylum seeker’s trial will be held again in the UK after being denied in his first petition by a judge who questioned his homosexuality on account of his supposed failure to act sufficiently effeminately to demonstrate his orientation. The claimant appealed the case to a higher court, which vacated the ruling and sent the case back to a first-instance court to be heard again. Further reports emerged last week of overcrowding and substandard conditions in housing provided by the Home Office for asylum seekers as they await refugee status determinations.

Sources: the Independent, the Guardian.

Mediterranean Search-and-Rescue

The Spanish NGO vessel Open Arms was allowed to dock in Lampedusa last Tuesday night, 19 days after having rescued 121 asylum seekers. The docking was ordered by an Italian magistrate, following sustained wrangling between Italian Interior Minister Salvini and his own coalition partners, as well as other European states, over the destination of the ship and its passengers. Obscured by the Open Arms standoff, the Ocean Viking remained adrift with 356 mostly Sudanese asylum seekers on board in the Mediterranean last week, refused access to Maltese and Italian waters. After announcing last Thursday, that it had only 5 days worth of food rations left, Malta announced it would allow the Ocean Viking to disembark, and France, Portugal, Luxembourg, Romania, Germany, and Ireland, announced they would receive them. In Tunisia, reports emerged this week of an incident where 64 Bangladeshi asylum seekers, rescued in the Mediterranean and disembarked in Tunisia, reported being pressured by IOM officers to sign voluntary return forms.

Sources: the Guardian, Reuters, Deutsche-Welle, BBC.

European Migration Trends and Tragedies in the Balkans

Greek authorities reported last week that arrivals to the Aegean islands in July spiked to over 5.000, the highest number for any month this year, leading to serious overcrowding on reception centers on the islands. Over the weekend, a minor died in the Safe Zone of the Moria RIC in Lesvos as a result of a stabbing attack by another minor.  Last week, Slovenia began extending the fence on its border with Croatia to further restrict asylum seeker crossings from Croatia into the Schengen Zone, and over the weekend, one asylum seeker died and 12 more were injured in a car crash in North Macedonia, when the van in which they were traveling collided with a truck. In separate incidents, one asylum seeker woman died in a smuggler’s van that crashed into a river trying to evade authorities, while police in North Macedonia found 24 asylum seekers in an abandoned truck just across the border from Greece. EU authorities announced last week that they had allocated 10€ million to build reception centers in Bosnia, as growing numbers of asylum seekers become stuck in the country due to Croatia’s tight border control measures. A report surfaced over the weekend revealing there is a backlog of almost 900.000 asylum seekers in Europe awaiting action on their asylum applications or appeals, with 44% of these living in Germany.

Sources: Ekathimerini, the Telegraph, Reuters, the Associated Press, Deutsche-Welle, the Guardian.

Italian Government Breakup

Prime Minister Conte of Italy resigned his post last Tuesday, following a standoff with Interior Minister Salvini over the closure of Italian ports to NGO search-and-rescue vessels. As of this Monday, a new government has not yet been formed, through the populist 5-Star Movement and center-left Democratic Party remain in coalition discussions

Sources: the Guardian

Australian Migration Policy

Authorities in Papua-New Guinea announced last week that all remaining asylum seekers in Manus Island would be transferred to accommodation in Port Moresby, where they would be able to continue pursuing asylum domestically, potential relocation to the United States, or repatriation to their countries of origin. Political tensions are rising in Australia, as the government prepares to unveil a law that would ban all asylum seekers who arrived by boat from ever settling in Australia, which the opposition denounces as both excessive and ineffective policy. Advocacy groups denounced this week that one detention facility in Papua-New Guinea was holding asylum seekers incommunicado, making it difficult to communicate with legal representatives or with medical providers.

Sources: the Guardian.

Syrian Refugees in Turkey and Jordan

The deadline elapsed last week for Syrian refugees living in Istanbul but registered in other provinces to return voluntarily, or face forcible return at the hands of Turkish authorities. UNHCR figures released last week revealed that, of 233.000 refugee children in Jordan, nearly 84.000 have no access to any form of education.

Sources: Al-Jazeera, the Jordan Times.

Failed Rohingya Voluntary Repatriation Campaign

Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh largely spurned the offer to return to Rakhine state in Myanmar after the Burmese and Bangladeshi governments announced that about 3.000 refugees would be given the option to return. Bangladeshi officials revealed last week that, of about 1.000 families selected for potential return, only 21 agreed to be interviewed and none agreed to actually return to Myanmar. Rohingya community leaders stated, in response to the failed repatriation plan, that in order to feel safe returning to Myanmar, they need guarantees of international protection, a restitution of citizenship, and to be allowed to return to their homes rather than to reception centers. Midway through the failed repatriation campaign, the UN Human Rights Council released the report of a fact-finding mission that revealed the Burmese military’s extensive use of sexual violence through its 2016 campaign against the Rohingya community.

Sources: the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, Reuters, UN Human Rights Council.

Joel Hernàndez