News Update – 17 February ’16

Our weekly news update on refugee issues around the world by Isobel Fraser.
Follow Isobel on Twitter @isobelfraser1

  • The European Union has given Greece one month to improve living conditions and adequately staff reception centres, in the hope refugees may be returned to the country under the EU’s Dublin system. The EU’s Dublin Regulation allows refugees to be returned to the first country in the European Union they arrived in. Greece also announced it would be seeking for Turkey to be identified as a “safe third country”, which would mean refugees found in the Aegean could be returned to Turkey.
  • A coalition of NGOs, activists and charities has recorded a recent spike in violence against refugees in Calais’ “jungle” camp. Reports of violence included incidents of police brutality and attacks on refugees by civilian, far-right “militia”. The camp’s legal centre, with assistance from British charity Care4Calais, has filed an incident report which includes details of 10 violent incidents, eight by police and five by civilians. The report will be handed to the state prosecutor later this month.
  • More than 40,000 Syrian refugees remain stranded at the Turkish border after Aleppo, Syria’s largest city was encircled by Assad’s ground troops with support from Russian airstrikes. Turkey is reported to be providing humanitarian assistance to the refugees but has so far resisted calls to open the border to those fleeing the new offensive, citing security concerns. The UNHCR praised Turkey for taking in a number of injured refugees but said Turkey needed to “extend the opening of the border to others”.
  • Refugees in Calais’ “Jungle” camp have been notified they must prepare to move from their dwellings in a large area of the camp, within a few days. French officials are attempting to clear a large section in the south of the refugee camp of inhabitants, and it is estimated over 800 refugees will be affected by the clearance. French officials said those affected must prepare move to a new state run facility or accept being sent to other camps in France.  The clearance will also involve the demolition of three mosques, one church and three schools.
  • New Zealand has announced a number of the refugees, currently facing deportation from Australia to an off shore detention centre, could go to New Zealand under an agreement brokered in 2013. The agreement allows 150 refugees a year to travel to New Zealand from Australia, but Australia has yet to take up the offer. The moves occur as part of a growing campaign against the deportation of 276 asylum seekers to Nauru, following an Australian high court’s decision to reject an appeal against the detention of asylum seekers on the Island.