September 16-23, 2019

Migration Developments in Greece and Turkey

Last week, humanitarian actors in Lesvos continued denouncing increasingly dire conditions on the island and in particular in the Moria Reception and Identification Center. Later in the week, Greek police evacuated two Central Athens squats used as shelters for asylum seekers. Turkish President Erdoğan continued to insist on being allowed to transfer Syrian refugees from Turkey to a safe zone in Syria, arguing that it could host between 2 and 3 million Syrians, and that Turkey will begin establishing unilaterally within 2 weeks if it does not receive external support. Erdoğan added that, should Turkish troops be unable to maintain the current peace in Idlib, Turkey will not able to provide for the 4 million Syrian IDPs therein. Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis convened a second emergency meeting on migration management this weekend, following the arrival of 400 asylum seekers to Lesvos last Friday, and signaled he intends to discuss the issue with both German Chancellor Merkel and Turkish President Erdoğan in the near future. Over the weekend, Moria camp managers announced they could no longer receive additional people after reaching 12.000 occupants, quadruple the camp’s official capacity.

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

Migration and Asylum Management in the UK

An Ethiopian asylum seeker whose breast cancer treatment was delayed while the Home Office adjudicated her claim died last week, amid recriminations by her lawyers and family that delays to her treatment precipitated her passing away. In Glasgow, the Home Office’s new contractor for asylum seeker housing committed to carry out no evictions without a court order, addressing demands from advocates and to rising concerns of homelesness among evicted asylum seekers. Mears, the contractor in question, was mired in controversy in Belfast over its failure to fix serious leaks in a contracted apartment, or to move the asylum seeker housed therein after the ceiling collapsed as a result. Immigrant advocates in the UK reported last week that the February 2019 suicide of a teenager in a reception center in Camden was in fact the fourth suicice among a group of friends over the last 16 months, urging better reception conditions and mental health services for arriving asylum seekers. After a Nigerian man died in a migrant detention center in Harmondsworth last week, his brother reported that the deceased man had felt unwell for weeks and requested medical attention, but that despite evident healthcare needs, he went without proper care for weeks until dying suddenly. 

Sources: the Guardian, BBC, the Independent.

Migration and Asylum Management in France

Early last week, French authorities cleared an informal shelter and encampment hosting 700 asylum seekers in Dunkirk, likely in response to the rise in irregular maritime crossings to the UK over the summer. Signaling a toughening of French immigration rules, President Macron admonished his party last week that while the bourgeoisie supports migration without ever interacting with immigrants, working-class people who are affected and who see no solutions from center-left parties will inevitably turn to the far right.

Sources: the Independent, Voice of America.

Mediterranean Search-and-Rescue

Last Wednesday, Maltese authorities rescued 44 asylum seekers, including a pregnant woman at risk of miscarrying, after responding to a distress signal relayed by Alarm Phone, an NGO that monitors Mediterranean crossings. The following night, Maltese authorities coordinated the rescue of a distressed ship carrying 36 asylum seekers and their transfer to the Ocean Viking. Last week, an Italian judge opened a trial against two high-ranking Coast Guard officials for manslaughter and negligence, relating to their alleged role in delaying a rescue operation in the Mediterranean in October 2013. According to existing filings and representations, a ship carrying at least 268 asylum seekers began sinking after being fired upon by the Lybian Coast Guard on October 11, 2013, and sent out a distress signal at noon of that day. However, due to unclear communications and poor coordination, rescuers did not arrive until five hours later. Late this Monday, the Ocean Viking is expected to disembark another 182 rescued passengers in Italy, against the backdrop of an emerging EU asylum seeker redistribution agreement.

Sources: Agence France-Presse/JIJI, the Associated Press, Al Jazeera, EuroNews, the New York Times.

European Migration Trends

French President Macron and Italian Prime Minister Conte made a joint appeal for a new EU asylum seeker redistribution mechanism, stating that the current system is unfair, particularly for Italy. Over the weekend, Swiss State Minister for Migration Gattiker criticized the EU’s emerging consensus on asylum seeker relocation, arguing that refugee status determination should be carried out before relocation, and that eligibility standards for asylum should be made uniform across EU states. This Monday, representatives of the EU, Germany, France, Italy, and Malta are meeting to advance the details of a permanent deal on disembarking and redistributing asylum seekers rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, signaling their greater willingness to assist Italy now that it is governed by a coalition less hostile to both migrants and to the EU. The European Asylum Support Office and Cyprus announced a deal this week which will see EASO deploy officers to help Cyprus manage its growing numbers of asylum seeker arrivals. EASO’s presence will double from 20 to 40 before the end of 2019, and double again to 80 by the end of 2020. A report surfaced last week revealing that rising numbers of Moroccans, 300 thus far this year, have sought asylum in Spain on account of their sexual orientation.

Sources: BBC, SwissInfo, Politico Europe, Deutsche-Welle, the Associated Press, Morocco World News.

Global Migration Trends

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs released a report last week revealing that the global migrant population is growing faster than the overall global population, and that the two regions hosting the largest number of migrants are Europe, hosting 82 million, and North America, hosting 59 million. Notably, between 2010 and 2010, the number of traditional migrants grew by 2% per year, while the number of forced migrants grew by 8% per year.

Sources: UN News, Quartz.

Migrant Detention and Repatriation in Africa

The UN Mission in Libya issued a report last week denouncing that Libyan authorities are both complicit in widespread human trafficking, and neglectful of militias trafficking migrants with impunity. Last week, a Sudanese man died in Tripoli after he was shot by a guard while trying to escape a migrant detention center after being brought back onshore by the Libyan Coast Guard along with 103 other asylum seekers. Botswanan authorities repatriated 94 refugees back to Namibia last week, the first of a group of 800 members of the banned United Democratic Party that have lived in exile in Botswana since 1999. Spokesmen for this group denounced that they are being forcibly removed after refusing voluntary repatriation and that they fear persecution once returned to Namibia.

Sources: InfoMigrants, Voice of America.

U.S. Migration Policy Developments

U.S. and El Salvador authorities signed an asylum cooperation agreement last Friday, that sets the outline for El Salvador to become a safe third country for asylum seekers in transit toward the United States. Reports emerged last week of a new program where asylum seekers sit for credible fear interviews with Border Patrol agents, rather than with Citizenship and Immigration officers, which advocates denounce as a deliberate effort to reduce the rate of successful credible fear assessments.

Sources: NPR, the Los Angeles Times.

U.S. Border Management & Detention

Immigrant advocates denounced last week the creation of expedited asylum courts in tent camps along the border, where lawyers have no access to detained asylum seekers and where immigration judges are slated to adjudicate hundreds of cases per day as processing ramps up.  Immigration lawyers working along the border have denounced the process as an abrogation of due process deliberately designed to limit asylum seekers’ ability to have a fair trial. Lawyers for two Indian asylum seekers held in ICE detention near El Paso, and who began a hunger strike in early July, warned that these men were nearing death and urged U.S. authorities to release them for the remainder of their asylum proceedings. Last Friday, a young mother and her 21-month-old son, who had been waiting for weeks in Mexico for their asylum hearing under the Migration Protection Protocol, drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande River to rejoin the rest of their family, settled in North Carolina. The number of asylum seekers ‘Remaining in Mexico’ under the Migrant Protection Protocol now exceeds 11.000.

Sources: the Los Angeles Times, Texas Monthly, El Paso Times, CNN, CBS News.

Internally Displaced Syrians in Rubkan

Russian authorities accused the U.S.-led coalition of blocking a UN-mandated evacuation from Rukban camp to parts of Syria controlled by the Assad regime. Moscow described Rubkan which hosts over 12.000 Syrian IDPs near the Jordanian border, as a death camp, and accused U.S.-supported rebels of stealing humanitarian aid destined to Rubkan and of threatening convoys transporting IDPs from Rubkan.

Sources: Agence France-Presse.

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

A young Rohingya woman, born and raised in Bangladesh, was expelled earlier this month from the private Cox’s Bazaar International University, calling attention this week to the lack of educational opportunities for Rohingya children in Bangladesh.

Sources: Al Jazeera.

Joel Hernàndez