August 26-September 2, 2019

Migration Developments in Greece

Greek police raided multiple squats, operating as informal reception centers for asylum seekers and refugees, in the Athens neighborhood of Exarcheia last week, detaining about 100 people and leaving an unknown number homeless. Last Friday, UNICEF denounced that there are over 1.100 unaccompanied minors on the islands, the highest number since 2016, and that the Safe Zone of the Moria camp, where an unaccompanied minor was killed by one of his peers last week, is hosting 520 children when it was built to accommodate 160. Late last week, 13 boats carrying over 500 asylum seekers arrived in Lesvos within a few hours, making for the highest number of arrivals in a single day since 2016. Over the weekend, the Greek government vowed to prevent a return to the uncontrolled arrivals in 2016, pledging to activate an integrated maritime border control system and upgrade the Hellenic Coast Guard fleet, to reunite 116 unaccompanied minors currently in Greece with their families in other European countries, and also to work with Turkish authorities to prevent crossings, to revoke the right to appeal negative first-instance asylum decisions, and to step up deportations of rejected asylum seekers remaining in Greece. The government also began, this Monday, the transfer of 1500 asylum seekers from Lesvos to northern Greece.

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

Mediterranean Search-and-Rescue

About 40 asylum seekers are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean last week when their embarcation sank in waters east of Tripoli, while 65 were rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard. This shipwreck brought this year’s number of migration-related maritime fatalities in the Mediterranean above 900. Italian Interior Minister Salvini began another stand-off with an NGO rescue ships last week, denying permission to enter Italian waters to the Mare Jonio, operated by the Italian NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans, and to the Eleonore, run by German charity Mission Lifeline, each of which is carrying 100 asylum seekers rescued off of Libya’s coast. Italian authorities grounded two NGO surveillance planes last week that had been assisting maritime rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Last Thursday, a Spanish Coast Guard ship rescued 200 asylum seekers, found on three rafts that had set sail from Morocco.

Sources: the Independent, EU Observer, Reuters, InfoMigrants, the Guardian.

European Migration Trends

A report surfaced last week detailing how Kosovo, the last country in Europe’s broader neighborhood without visa-free access to the Schengen Zone, is nevertheless the source of fewer unfounded asylum claims than 12 other countries, in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and in Latin America, that do have visa-free access. Sweden announced last Thursday that it would slightly restrict the rule that gives immediate asylum to all arriving refugees from Syria—those living in the northeast autonomous Kurdish zone, around Damascus, and on Syria’s coast will henceforth remain eligible for asylum, but need to prove a fear of persecution, rather than automatically receive refugee status in Sweden. EU Migration Commissioner Avramopoulos praised European countries over the weekend for resettling 35.000 refugees directly from countries of origin over the last two years, but nevertheless urged EU member states to do more and further step up refugee resettlement.

Sources: the Guardian, Schengen Visa Info, the Local, Politico Europe.

UK Asylum Policy and Practice in the Spotlight

Last week, Belgian authorities recovered the body of an Iraqi man who, after failing to obtain asylum in Germany, tried to swim across the English Channel wearing a self-made life jacket, as British and French Coast Guard ships rescued several dozen asylum seekers trying to cross the English Channel over the week. Over 900 asylum seekers have arrived in the UK by sea this year, despite year-round dangerous conditions in the English Channel. Asylum seekers living in Home Office-provided accommodation and their advocates reported substantial improvements in their accommodation last week, following an investigation and report the week prior detailing overcrowding, vermin infestation, and inadequate fixtures and facilities in these housing units. In Glasgow, advocates raised the alarm last week as evictions of rejected asylum seekers from public housing accelerated, leading to a growing homelessness problem in the streets of Glasgow. Over the weekend, reports emerged that the Home Office is planning, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, to end family reunification of unaccompanied minors in continental Europe with relatives in the UK as currently allowed under the Dublin Regulation.   

Sources: the Guardian, BBC, Euronews.

Italian Government Formation

Italian President Mattarella gave outgoing Prime Minister Conte a mandate last week to form a new coalition government built on an alliance between the center-left Democratic Party and populist Five Star Movement. Outgoing Interior Minister Salvini has, in an apparent effort to complicate these negotiations, sustained his prohibitions on the disembarkation of two NGO rescue vessels in Italian ports, seeking to split the Democratic Party, which deployed Italy’s navy to run search-and-rescue missions and kept ports open to NGO ships when it governed, and the Five Star Movement, which wishes to keep Italian ports closed to NGO ships. 

Sources: the Guardian, Reuters.

U.S. Migration Policy Developments

The Administration released a rule last week removing protections from deportable migrants receiving lifesaving care in U.S. medical facilities. U.S. authorities released a new rule last week restricting the automatic granting of U.S. citizenship to children of American service members born overseas. Over the weekend, U.S. and Salvadorean authorities announced new agreements between the two countries to boost job-creation in El Salvador and reduce incentives to migrate to the United States, and the formation, for the first time, of a Salvadorean Border Patrol agency. 

Sources: the Associated Press, Task and Purpose, NPR. 

U.S. Border Management & Detention

19 states filed a federal lawsuit last week against the Administration’s rule loosening restrictions on detaining migrant children and imposing minimum welfare and hygienic conditions in child detention centers. The complaint raises new allegations of continued unsanitary conditions in U.S. immigration detention centers, including severe overcrowding in cells, poor-quality food and water, and girls not being provided sanitary products or opportunities to shower or change during menstruation.

Sources: Politico, California Attorney General’s Office, the Seattle Times.

Syrian Refugees in Turkey and Lebanon

Amnesty International denounced last week that, over the last three months, Lebanese authorities have repatriated almost 2.500 Syrian refugees to Syria.

Sources: InfoMigrants.

Potential Emerging Statelessness Situation in India

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Grande criticized last week a new registration law in the Indian state of Assam that requires the state’s 30 million residents to demonstrate family roots in Assam preceding 1971, or be denied designation as Indian nationals and face potential deportation and statelessness. This policy, seen as targeted toward irregular migrants from Bangladesh, threatens both the descendants of migrants and refugees whose families have inhabited Assam for generations, as well as local families who lack the documentation to prove their ancestry.

Sources: NDTV, the Guardian.

Refugee Returns in Africa

Burundi and Tanzania announced last week a deal to repatriate 400.000 Burundian refugees who fled to Tanzania after a contested election last October and subsequent political violence. UNHCR has questioned the deal’s assumptions that conditions in Burundi have returned to normal and called for restraint and signaled that it will only assist voluntary returns. Parallel to this, a court ruling in Botswana required that about 800 Namibian refugees from the Caprivi region, in exile since 1999 following a failed independence struggle, return to Namibia. Community leaders fear they will be harmed or imprisoned if they return, and have challenged authorities to arrest and forcibly deport them.

Sources: Al-Jazeera, Voice of America.

Australian Migration Policy

Oxfam released a report last week, commissioned form DeLoitte Access Economics, which found that raising Australia’s refugee intake, simplifying family reunification proceedings, and expanding Australia’s narrow definition of a re-unifiable nuclear family member would significantly boost employment and economic activity in Australia. Reports emerged last week that, ahead of a mass relocation from Manus Island to Port Moresby in mainland Papua-New Guinea, asylum seekers remaining in Manus Island have seen their food and cash assistance cut off.

Sources: the Guardian.

Joel Hernàndez