September 9-September 16

Migration Management and Policy in Greece

Greek authorities announced last Monday that they would set up two new camps in mainland Greece to reduce pressure on the islands, with a total capacity of 900 and operating as transit camps toward better accommodation elsewhere on the mainland. Germany's Interior Ministry called last week for Greece and Turkey to step up returns of inadmissible migrants to Turkey under the EU-Turkey deal, noting that while only 1.094 returns have taken place, Europe has resettled nearly 25.000 Syrian refugees in Turkey under the one-in-one-out mechanism. Greece's Administrative Judges’ Union protested last week new Prime Minister Mitsotakis's emerging plan to do away with asylum appeals, passing appeals onto the already overburdened Administrative Appeals process instead. Last week, Director Balbakakis of the Moria Reception and Identification Center in Lesvos announced his resignation from the Reception and Identification Service. This Monday, 141 asylum seekers arrived in Lesvos in the early morning hours.

Sources: Ekathimerini, Al Jazeera, Deutsche-Welle.

Migration and Asylum Management in the UK

Last Monday, the British Coast Guard rescued 22 asylum seekers who had crossed the Channel on two crafts, and also confirmed the disappearance of a woman off England's coast, whose body was found in Dutch waters. French police stepped up enforcement in and around Calais last week, clearing out informal camps for three days in a row to try to disperse asylum seekers trying to cross the English Channel. This Sunday, British Coast Guard ships intercepted another two boats, carrying 41 asylum seekers total; so far this year 1.253 asylum seekers have made irregular crossings from France to the UK. Separately, service providers for pregnant asylum seeking women signaled problems with NHS billing services for antenatal care, denouncing the emotional costs of the erroneous charges levied, and the potential consequences unto ongoing asylum applications.

Sources: BBC, ITV, the Independent.

Mediterranean Search-and-Rescue

The Alan Kurdi was allowed early last week to disembark its last 5 passengers this week onto a Maltese Coast Guard ship, after rescuing 13 asylum seekers on August 31 off the coast of Tunisia. Italy's new government had refused to allow the Alan Kurdi to dock, requesting time to revise the prior government's harsh laws against NGO search-and-rescue ships. Italy's government announced on Thursday a deal with several other European countries to disembark and relocate 82 asylum seekers from the Ocean Viking. The EU announced late last week that it would extend Operation Sophia for another 6 months, but continue monitoring Mediterranean maritime crossings with aircraft only rather than patrolling with ships.

Sources: the Associated Press, the Guardian, Reuters, Politico.

Italy's New Government

Italian Prime Minister Conte visited Brussels last week to visit with incoming Head of the European Commission Van der Leyden, asking for respite from the EU on budgetary limits and for greater solidarity, and specifically a redistribution mechanism, for arriving asylum seekers. Conte stated that, with such a mechanism in place, state-led search-and-rescue efforts in the Mediterranean could resume. Italian Prime Minister Conte announced last week the outline of the emerging deal, whereby Italy would reopen its ports to rescue vessels, Germany and France would each receive one quarter of asylum seekers rescued in the Mediterreanean, while the remaining half would be distributed to other European countries, with those who refuse to comply being required to pay fines. 

Sources: Reuters, the Local.

European Migration Trends

New Head of the European Commission Van der Leyden invited controversy this week by renaming the post of Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs to that of Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life, although Van der Leyden herself publicly stood by German Chancellor Merkel's refugee-friendly policies when she served as Defense Minister in Germany. Authorities in Cyprus have requested EU assistance in light of the growing numbers of asylum seekers arriving to Cyprus after traveling from Turkey to Northern Cyprus, and then crossing the Green Line into the Republic of Cyprus. As of mid-2019, the Cypriot asylum system has a backlog of close to 15.000 cases, and authorities are struggling to provide accommodation, livelihoods, or timely proceedings. In Switzerland, the State Secretariat for Migration announced it would close two reception centers this year, due to a reduction in asylum seeker arrivals, while working to improve its removal proceedings for rejected asylum seekers; and revealed that the number of Turks seeking asylum in Switzerland after the 2016 coup attempt has more than doubled compared to the three years prior, from 1.200 to 2.800. Last week, the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition called for Ireland to launch a search-and-rescue mission in the Mediterranean, to expand its asylum seeker reception capacity, and to launch a resettlement program admitting 1.500 refugees per year.

Sources: the Washington Post, Deutsche-Welle, SwissInfo, the Irish Times.

Migrant Detention and Repatriation in Africa

Pursuant to an agreement between the EU, UNHCR, and Rwanda, the first 500 asylum seekers will be moved this week from Libya to a transit camp outside of Kigali in Rwanda, to be followed by greater numbers in the future. Per the agreement, once transferred to Rwanda, UNHCR will continue facilitating solutions for asylum seekers, which may include third-country resettlement, integration into Rwanda, or voluntary return to countries of origin. Late last week, UNHCR relocated 98 vulnerable asylum seekers from Libya to Italy, including 52 unaccompanied minors, while continuing to urge states to provide solutions for the 3.600 asylum seekers still believed to be in detention in Libya. Over this weekend, three men were arrested in Sicily under suspicion they had worked as abusive captors in a Libyan migrant detention center, after former detainees recognized them in an asylum seeker center and denounced them to Italian authorities.

Sources: the Associated Press, the Guardian, UNHCR.

U.S. Migration Policy Developments

Following Hurricane Dorian's devastation of the Bahamas, the Administration is under pressure to ease visa restrictions for Bahamanians seeking safety in the United States. However, hereto now, the President has refused to do so, arguing that displaced Bahamanians should go to parts of the Bahamas that were not affected by the storm. Last Monday, hundreds were made to disembark from a ferry unless they had valid travel documents; last Sunday, evacuees on a ship that had arrived to the Port of Palm Beach in Florida were not allowed to disembark for the same reasons, causing confusion and distress in both cases. Later in the week, the Administration announced it would not offer Temporary Protected Status to the Bahamas, which U.S. authorities typically extent after regional disasters, and which would have allowed Bahamanians to settle and work in the United States while the state recovers. Last week, Foreign Minister Rosales of Honduras stated that his government is not seeking a safe third-country agreement with the United States similar to the one Guatemala recently signed, and Foreign Minister Ebrard of Mexico stated that his country cannot fulfill the requirements of a safe third country status and that his government is seeking a cooperative agreement with the United States to best manage bilateral migration issues.

Sources: USA Today, Reuters.

U.S. Border Management & Detention

The Administration won a major victory in its efforts to reduce asylum seeker arrivals to the United States last week, after a week of legal back-and-forth over a rule that, similarly to the admissibility requirement of the EU-Turkey deal, requires that asylum seekers have tried and failed to obtain asylum in a different country before applying for asylum in the United States. Federal Judge Tigar reinstated last Monday an injunction against this rule that he had previously issued and then seen partially overturned by a Court of Appeal. His ruling was revoked again by the same Court of Appeals on the following day, and looks destined for final adjudication in the Supreme Court. Last Thursday, the Supreme Court allowed the rule to go into effect until litigation has concluded, essentially allowing U.S. authorities to deny asylum to all foreign nationals arriving through Mexico, other than Mexican nationals.

Sources: the New York Times, CNN.

Syrian Refugees in Turkey, and Jordan.

Turkish authorities persisted last week in seeking international support for relocating Syrian refugees to a yet-undefined safe zone in northeast Syria, in territory currently controlled mainly by Kurdish forces. Turkish and U.S. forces conducted their first joint patrol in the area last Sunday, which drew protests from the governments of Syria and Russia. In Jordan, though a border crossing with Syria that had been closed for 4 years re-opened a year ago, only 28.000 Syrian refugees have returned, while the remaining ~1.3 million continue refusing to return despite dwindling resources and livelihood opportunities for them in Jordan.

Sources: the New York Times, the Associated Press.

Australian Foreign Aid and Asylum Policy Developments

An asylum seeker housing and sustenance crisis is growing in Indonesia as a result of the Australian government's cutoff of funding to IOM to provide for new arrivals to Indonesia. Asylum seekers in Indonesia do not have the right to work, and with UNHCR and IOM short of funds to provide for them, groups have begun camping outside of Indonesian immigration detention centers, demanding they be let in. An Australian Senate Committee issued a report approving of proposed legislation that permanently extend Australia's “stop the boats” policy against irregular maritime migration.

Sources: the Guardian, SBS.

Joel Hernàndez