News Update – 21 January ’16

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

  • Four Syrian refugees must be brought from the Jungle refugee camp in Calais to Britain, immigration judges ruled yesterday evening. The three unaccompanied boys and one dependent adult all have family in the UK but were unable to apply for asylum from Calais. Refugee welfare groups described as groundbreaking the order that the four refugees should, under European rules, be allowed to live with their family in Britain while their asylum claims are studied. They are expected to be allowed to travel to Britain at the earliest opportunity.
  • Doctors Without Borders began work on a self-funded site for refugees in Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk. The Mayor of Grande-Synthe had approached the organisation after 2,500 asylum seekers set up camp in the area without adequate shelters or provisions, with heavy rainfall this month further worsening conditions in the camp. Plans for the site had initially been delayed due to concerns expressed by French authorities over technical issues, including of a potential fire risk.
  • Rob Lawrie, a former soldier, facing five years in jail for attempting to bring a four year old Afghan girl from the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais to the UK, has been spared a prison term and served instead a fine of €1,000. Lawrie had identified the act as a “crime of compassion” and speaking of the young refugee girl, named Bahar Ahmadi, he said: She is an intelligent, articulate four-year-old girl. If we get these kids into our education system now, they will become doctors, lawyers, teachers.”
  • The U.N. refugee agency has warned proposals by Denmark for expanded powers to search the luggage of refugees and seize valuables worth over $1,000, could lead to an increase in xenophobia and fear around refugee influxes. The powers fall within a new immigration bill currently under debate in the Danish parliament, and expected to be passed later this month, which would obligate refugees to hand over valuables in order to fund their stay. Measures also include extending the time families must wait to apply for reunification to three years.
  • Alf Dubs, a former MP, who escaped the Nazis using the Kindertransport programme, has joined a growing alliance of voices calling for the Government to take an additional 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees. Dubs tabled an amendment to the immigration bill last week, which if passed would require the Government to admit the additional 3,000 refugees into the UK; a figure determined as fairly proportionate by Save the Children.
  • Volunteers supported 1,500 refugees to move their dwellings in the Calais “Jungle” refugee camp, after French authorities evicted the residents from a designated “buffer zone” near a newly built state-funded site. Refugees and aid workers have expressed concerns over the new site, including that the requirement for refugees to have their handprints taken, may later hinder refugees’ efforts to claim asylum in the UK.
  • The European Union is working on plans to scrap the Dublin regulation, which dictates refugees must claim asylum in the first country they enter; in order for numbers of refugees to be shared more evenly between member states. Currently only 300 refugees have been relocated under a European wide resettlement scheme to resettle 120,000 refugees. The UK government will be under no obligation to adhere to new quotas which may accompany the plans but could lose the right to return refugees in the UK to other European countries they passed through.
  • The UNHCR and its partners are struggling to help an estimated 100,000 people driven from their homes in recent weeks in south-east Niger’s Diffa region in attacks launched by Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency group. UNHCR’s team in Niger reports that the situation is very serious with acute shortages of shelter and basic aid items for the displaced, including local villagers, internally displaced people from Niger and people who have been displaced several times.