September 23-30, 2019

Fatalities in the Moria Reception and Identification Center

At least three asylum seekers died as a result of accidents in Moria this week. Last Tuesday, a 5-year-old Afghan child, who was hiding in a cardboard box, was run over by a truck making a delivery to a nearby business. Then, this Sunday, two fires broke out in Moria, one of which led to the death of a mother and her newborn child. Greek authorities deployed additional police to Moria in response to this latest incident, and both UNHCR and leading INGOs in Lesvos issued strong condemnations of conditions in Lesvos and called for speedy infrastructural improvements and transfers to the mainland.

Sources: Ekathimerini, the Irish Times, the Telegraph.

Migration Developments in Greece and Turkey

Last Friday, Greek Citizen Protection Minister Chrysochoidis announced a plan to transfer 10.000 asylum seekers from the islands to the mainland, and reports emerged that the Ministry of Defense might host some at disused military installations. Chrysochoidis had also announced, one day prior, an increase in the population density standard that would make it possible to increase camp capacity using the existing infrastructure, and Greece also requested additional equipment from Frontex to monitor maritime crossings last week. Nearly 1.000 asylum seekers arrives in the Eastern Aegean last Thursday and Friday. Last Friday, a boat carrying 20 Turkish asylum seekers capsized near Chios, 13 were rescued by the Greek Coast Guard while two women and five children drowned.

Sources: Ekathimerini, Lifo (in Greek), Reuters.

European Migration Trends

The UK’s High Court of Justice allowed a lawsuit against the Home Office last week, for a controversial re-documentation practice whereby the Home Office would arrange meetings between rejected asylum seekers and officers from their countries of origin for a vetting exercise prior to repatriation. Ahead of debate in France’s National Assembly on new migration legislation, French President Macron noted that asylum applications have risen substantially in France since his 2017 election and that France must streamline its migration policies, especially if it wishes to slow down the growth of the far right. Irish authorities reported this week that Ireland has admitted just over 2.500 refugees over the last 4 years, after committing in September 2015 to admit 4.000 refugees through EU relocation and resettlement mechanisms. Advocacy groups strongly criticized this shortfall last week, and urged the government to meet its commitment to relocate 36 refugee children from Greece before the end of the year. Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees reported this week that, thus far in 2019, Germany has received just under 2.000 asylum applications from unaccompanied minors, down from about 3.000 in the first 8 months of the previous year.

Sources: the Independent. the Irish Times, InfoMigrants.

Migrant Detention and Repatriation in Africa

This weekend, the first 66 transfers took place under the Emergency Transit Mechanism, under which UNHCR which will continue transferring asylum seekers from detention centers in Libya to a processing center in Rwanda. Presently, there are 3.000 detainees registered in Libya and 500 accommodation places available in Rwanda, though UNHCR plans to provide options for onward movement, including resettlement and local integration, to continue transferring asylum seekers out of detention in Libya. 

Sources: Voice of America.

U.S. Migration Policy Developments

Immigration advocates in the United States and in El Salvador began speaking out last week against the migration deal signed between the two countries the week prior, pointing out that El Salvador’s asylum office currently employs one person, and that the deal’s vague wording could lead to allow U.S. authorities to deport people to El Salvador who had not previously transited through Salvadorean territory. On the same week, U.S. authorities announced a migration deal with Honduras whereby asylum seekers could be sent back to Honduras to lodge asylum claims there. This deal, signed on the heels of similar deals with Guatemala and El Salvador, suggests that U.S. authorities could begin sending asylum seekers from around the world to any of these three countries rather than process their asylum claims domestically. Late last week, the Administration announced it would set its refugee resettlement cap at 18.000 for the next fiscal year, the lowest number since the U.S. resettlement program was established in 1980. U.S. authorities announced last week they will soon be ending the practice of releasing migrants on bond pending their immigration proceedings, explaining that those without credible fear will be sent back swiftly to countries of origin, in collaboration with Central American countries, while those who do claim credible fear would be sent to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocol.

Sources: the Intercept, the Washington Post, the Guardian, NPR.

Future Prospects for Syrian Refugees in Turkey

At the UN General Assembly, Turkish President Erdoğan spelled out his vision for a Safe Zone is northeastern Syria which would be secured by foreign patrolling and available to host between 1 and 2 million returning Syrian refugees. Erdoğan also called for an international donor conference to support returnees to help them establish livelihoods upon return. Though U.S. and Turkish authorities have an agreement in principle to establish a safe zone, U.S. regional commanders have been reluctant to sign off on a final agreement and, thus far, preserved an uneasy balance between Turkish designs and Kurdish interests in northeast Syria.

Sources: the Guardian, the National.

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Last week, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Hasina outlined at the U.N. General Assembly four requirements to begin resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis: for Myanmar to show political will to accept repatriations, guarantee civic and political rights of the Rohingya, and accept international monitors overseeing Burmese authorities’ conduct, and for the international community to support this process. Reports emerged this week of a substantial⁠—if difficult to confirm or to quantify—presence of militant groups operating in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, and of their commission of violence and intimidation within these camps. 

Sources: Dhaka Tribune, Deutsche-Welle.

Australian Asylum Policy

Australia’s government came under scrutiny from the courts and from its opposition last week. Interior Minister Dutton announced last week he would appeal federal court rulings requiring the transfer of dozens of asylum seekers in offshore detention to the Australian mainland for medical care. Over the same week, the opposition Labor Party demanded that the government release a report commissioned by the Immigration Ministry and completed last February, but which the government intends to embargo until the end of the year, when it intends to release it along with the government’s rebuttal to the report. Press and advocacy groups speculate that the report is critical of Australia’s refugee resettlement practices.

Sources: the Guardian.

Joel Hernàndez