News Update – 29 February ’16
Our weekly news update on refugee issues around the world by Isobel Fraser.
Follow Isobel on Twitter @isobelfraser1
- A judge has ruled in favour of razing a large section of Calais’ “Jungle” camp, after initially postponing the judgement due to largely divergent estimates of residents living in the section, made by French authorities, and by aid agencies. The charity Help Refugees, who work in the camp, conducted a census of the area and recorded 3,455 people living, including 305 unaccompanied refugee children. Many advocates fear residents, especially lone children, will be left without vital support networks and will be at risk from people smugglers and traffickers. French authorities say refugees will be encouraged to move to state built shipping containers or be relocated to other camps around France.
- Jude Law called on David Cameron to postpone the demolition of a large part of Calais’ “Jungle” camp and allow unaccompanied refugee children living in the camp to be reunited with their relatives in the UK. The demands were made in an open letter to the Prime Minister, sent by Law and 145 other prominent figures. The letter was signed by a number of celebrities including Benedict Cumberbatch, Idris Elba, Helena Bonham Carter and Philip Pullman, as well as more than 9,000 members of the public.
- Australia has announced one-year-old baby Asha, born to asylum seeker parents, will be released into community detention rather than be returned to Nauru, following protests by pro-refugee activists. Asha was flown to a hospital in Brisbane last month, to be treated for burns after boiling water was accidentally spilled on her whilst on Nauru. Doctors at the Brisbane hospital had refused to discharge the one-year-old until a suitable home environment had been identified, believing Nauru to be unsafe for the child.
- Up to 26,000 people are believed to have been displaced in South Sudan after fighting broke out between ethnic Dinka and Shilluk at a site for internally displaced people in Malakal. Humanitarian partners on the ground reported shooting, looting of properties and burning of houses. UNHCR staff said civilians fled carrying whatever they could and that vulnerable people were left unattended. Many families were separated in the rush to flee.
- Amnesty International has said New Zealand is failing to do “its fair share in the global refugee crisis” and should increase its intake of refugees, which currently stands at 750 annually. The organisation praised New Zealand for its recent offer to take an emergency intake of 600 Syrian refugees over three years, but said the country must go beyond “token gestures” and “take its global responsibilities seriously”. In their recently published annual report the NGO also condemned New Zealand’s detention of asylum seekers alongside other prisoners.
- Greece recalled their ambassador from Vienna last week, after Austria capped asylum claims to 80 per day and called a summit of 10 Balkan countries to discuss the refugee crisis, excluding Athens. Austria imposed restrictions, despite complaints made by EU Migration Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, who warned the policy would be “plainly incompatible with Austria’s obligations under European and international law” in a letter to Austria’s Interior Minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner.
- Up to 70,000 refugees and migrants may soon be stranded in Greece. Already around 1,300 refugees have been transferred from the Greek-Macedonian border to a camp in Schisto, near Athens, after Macedonia imposed border restrictions on Afghan refugees and Syrian and Iraqi refugees without proper documentation. The moves by Macedonia followed restrictions on asylum applications imposed by Austria, and Croatia and Slovenia refused entry to Afghan refugees on Sunday. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned the border closures could result in a potentially critical bottleneck in Greece and called for “cooperation, not closures”.