News Update – 15 December ’15

Our weekly news update on refugee issues around the world by Isobel Fraser.

  • Aid agencies have reported that thousands of refugees are stranded in insanitary conditions in a remote region along the Jordanian- Syrian border. The vast majority of the refugees are reported to be women and children in need of increased water, food and medical assistance and aid agencies have reported that children subject to malnutrition. The United Nations has called on Jordan to allow the refugees to enter and amid security concerns, has offered to provide security assistance at registration points.
  • Finland announced asylum seekers will be required to work for free and engage with a “national curriculum” on Finnish society and culture. The government said asylum seekers would be assigned jobs, such as maintenance work at reception centres, in order to relieve their frustration whilst “idle”. The announcements were part of measures introducing stricter immigration policies in Finland including twice yearly reviews of refugee home countries, which may result in the cancellation of residence permits.
  • Hundreds of asylum seekers were transported from the Greek-Macedonian border to Athens, following a closure of the border and announcements last month that only refugees from certain countries would be allowed to pass through. 10 asylum seekers were detained by police for resisting their removal from the border region, although they were later released. A group of journalists and photographers were also detained, although adhering to police instructions to keep away from certain areas.
  • New guidelines were introduced in Scotland to protect refugees facing prosecution under immigration rules. Refugees who enter Scotland through the use of false documentation and without passports will be protected according to article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which asserts states must not penalise refugees for their illegal entry. Scotland’s chief Law Officer, Frank Mulholland, said: “This is an important step in how this country deals with refugees and those seeking safety far from their homes.”
  • Banksy has revealed a new artwork at ‘the Jungle’ refugee camp near Calais. The artwork depicts Steve Jobs, carrying an original apple computer, who is himself the son of a Syrian who migrated to the United States following the Second World War. The piece was intended to address negative stereotypes which identify refugees as a drain on a state’s economy. Banksy said: “We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant.”
  • The first group of refugees to arrive by government aircraft landed in Canada on Thursday, where they were welcomed by the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, alongside opposition party leaders. The group of 163 refugees will be housed in Toronto as well as other parts of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, with the support of all 10 of Canada’s provincial premiers. The federal government plans to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of February.
  • Lawyers brought a legal challenge against UK policy regarding refugees in Calais on Monday. More than 200 children currently living in the Jungle in Calais, many of them children who have fled Syria, have been identified by lawyers as being entitled to claim asylum in Britain on the grounds that they have close family members in the UK. A Home Office spokesperson responded to the challenge saying “We will not shoulder the burden of asylum claims which should rightly be considered by other countries.”