News Update – 2 Nov ’15

The first of your weekly news updates on refugee issues around the world by Isobel Fraser. 

  • The Czech Republic has been criticised for its treatment of refugees. Reports cited by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, claim that refugees held for “administrative offences” have been strip-searched in order to retrieve the cost of £6.50 per day, due to be paid for their detention. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called for an end to the detention of refugees and migrants in the Czech Republic where many have been incarcerated for 40 days or longer. It has also been claimed that most of those held have had no recourse to the legal aid necessary to challenge their detention.
  • Record numbers arrived in Greece last week with 56,000 people landing in 6 days. Alex Tsipras, the prime minister of Greece said: “We are in front of a huge humanitarian crisis”. Doctors without Borders have warned of frostbite as winter approaches and Amnesty International have also expressed concern that Europe may be faced with a humanitarian disaster as temperatures drop, if refugees become stranded at borders.
  • The interior minister of France, Bernard Cazeneuve visited Calais’ refugee camp nicknamed ‘the jungle’ last week, in order to discuss the construction of a new government camp. Construction of the new camp is due to begin on the 2nd of November and 400 refugees, some of whom have been moved multiple times before, are being asked to relocate so construction may begin.
  • Police clashed with No Borders protesters at London’s St Pancras on Saturday. Calais Migrant Solidarity group called for the action to take place at the Eurostar terminal in St Pancras as similar actions took place in Budapest and Paris. The protest was organised by Global Women’s Strike and All African Women’s Group.
  • Leaders of EU and Balkan countries met on Sunday to determine a 17-point plan to tackle the flows of refugees across Europe. Points in the plan include: the deployment of 400 police officers to Slovenia within the week; an increase in EU border agency Frontex’s operations to register refugees along the Greek-Macedonian border; the availability of 100,000 places in registration centres across the route from Greece to Germany and unilateral action by states to halt the facilitation of refugee flows across neighbouring borders.
  • Austria has announced plans to build “technical barriers” to manage the flow of refugees across its border. The Interior Minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner told parliament that work would begin after 10 days of planning but has said no plans exist “to build a fence around Austria”. Slovenia also discussed erecting fences if Sunday’s plan by EU and Balkan leaders, fails to successfully manage refugee flows.
  • The leader of Germany’s Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), has demanded Merkel limit the number of refugees entering the country until All Saints’ Day on Sunday. The CDU and CSU bloc has appeared at the lowest level in three years in an INSA poll with anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) up 1 point.
  • A rescue mission took place on Wednesday after a boat carrying asylum seekers across the Aegean sank due to bad weather conditions. Over 30 people were estimated to be missing and three people, among them a one-year-old and a four-year-old are reported to have died.
  • Amnesty International have issued claims that the Australian government were complicit in people smuggling as they are reported to have paid the crew of a vessel carrying asylum seekers to return to Indonesia. The Australian government has denied findings and claims government officials acted to save the lives of passengers and crew. Boat turnbacks represent a violation of the principle of non-refoulement where a government may not return refugees to a place where there is a risk to life and liberty.
  • During the Prime Minister’s Question Time Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, asked David Cameron to accept 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees into the UK, echoing a recommendation from Save the Children. David Cameron responded that doing so would present “the very real danger of separating children from their broader families” and refused the request. Save the Children’s director of campaigns, Kirsty McNeill, said “Despite the Prime Minister’s comments, we are not talking about children who have extended family they can stay with – these are children who are alone with few safe places to stay and no one to protect them”.

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