News Update – 16 Nov ’15
Our weekly news update on refugee issues around the world by Isobel Fraser.
- Refugees camped at a British air base in Cyprus have been told by British officials that they must claim asylum on the mainland or face being deported. Although the group of 114 refugees were initially brought ashore to the base after appearing in British territorial waters, Cyprus has agreed to process the refugees’ asylum claims. Members of the group have threatened hunger strikes in response to this proposal.
- Australia has been criticised at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva over its asylum policy. Delegates including Germany, Ireland and Guatemala, raised concerns over the detention of asylum seekers, particularly of children and for Australia’s boat turn-back policy. Restrictions on outside officials from visiting offshore detention centres such as on Nauru, was also commented on by attendees.
- Police in Calais have used tear gas and rubber bullets on refugees protesting against living conditions and attempting to halt lorries heading for Britain. Police blamed No Borders activists for inciting the actions and a number of activists have been arrested. A French government official, Fabienne Buccio, saw protests as a reflection of the growing difficulty for refugees to reach Britain.
- An increasing number of refugees are using the arctic route between Norway and Russia to enter Europe. 4,000 people have crossed this border since August and authorities have expressed fears over the effects of decreasing temperatures and the approach of the polar night, where the sun does not rise between November and January. Many refugees cycle this route as Russian authorities do not allow people to travel on foot.
- European and African leaders met for a summit in the Maltese capital of Valetta on Thursday to discuss refugee influxes. European representatives offered African governments including Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan, €1.8bn to agree to the deportation of African refugees. Many of these states have been condemned for their human rights abuses and Amnesty International has criticised the moves.
- Slovenia prepared to erect a wire fence along its border with Croatia to manage refugee influxes. The Prime Minister, Miro Cerar, ensured the border would remain open, but the fence will help manage the flow of people. An increasing number of refugees have entered the country since Hungary closed its border with Croatia in October.
- Sweden has introduced temporary border checks, in order to hinder refugees from crossing Sweden to seek refuge in other Scandinavian countries. A spokeswoman for Migrationsverket, Sweden’s migration agency, said: “If they come to the border and request asylum, then we will process their request, but if they have no desire to stay, then that’s a question for the police”. Ferries and trains will be monitored to check for travellers without proper documentation.
- A large fire broke out at the ‘new jungle’ refugee camp in Calais, hours after seven gunmen shot dead over 129 people in attacks in Paris. Immediate speculation arose connecting the two incidents, however local authorities have not yet confirmed a link. Many refugees have been left without shelter and any protection from cold weather conditions.
- As fighting intensifies in Yemen, more refugees are now seeking safety across the Gulf of Aden in Djibouti. Over 120,000 refugees and migrants have fled Yemen since April 2015, with more than 15,000 refugees now living in Djibouti. According to Abdul Rahman Mnawar, the community services officer at Markazi camp, many camps are now at full capacity. “We already need to plan the extension of the camp to welcome additional refugees” he said.