News Update – 7 December ’15

Our weekly news update on refugee issues around the world by Isobel Fraser.

  • A 16 year old asylum seeker of Sudanese origin died after being hit by a van near the Channel Tunnel, near to the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais. 18 asylum seekers are now reported to have died in the region since June whilst trying to reach Britain. Residents of the camp have become increasingly desperate in recent weeks with tensions escalating between asylum seekers and lorry drivers, as heightened security around the port has pushed more refugees to attempt to reach the UK via lorry.
  • Violent clashes have increased between police and asylum seekers at the Greek-Macedonian border following the completion of a border fence by Macedonian authorities. Police have used tear-gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets against those asylum seekers who have been barred from crossing the border, as only those fleeing war in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are now being permitted to pass through. Amnesty International said: “border police must show restraint and fully comply with international policing standards”.
  • Turkey has arrested and detained nearly 3,000 people who intended to travel across the Aegean Sea to Lesbos in a single operation this week. The group consists mainly of asylum seekers from Syria and Iraq and also includes thirty-five suspected people smugglers. The arrests follow agreements between Turkey and the European Union taking place last month, in which Turkey was promised €3bn and a renewed discussion of EU accession, in exchange for reducing refugee influxes into Europe.
  • The UK Government has resisted calls to take in a higher number of refugees, following Wednesday’s vote in the Commons for air strikes against IS targets in Syria. The International Rescue Committee UK (IRC), were amongst those calling for an increase to the current figure of refugees the government plans to relocate. Melanie Ward associate director at the IRC said: “It cannot be argued that accepting 4,000 Syrian refugees per year…is our fair share of the millions who have fled Syria-this is more the case now than ever before”.
  • The state of Texas has retracted a request for a restraining order against the federal government, intended to prevent the relocation of Syrian refugees to the state under a federal scheme. Texas filed a lawsuit against the US government and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) who are assisting in settling the refugees in the state, accusing both parties of endangering citizens’ lives by failing to share sufficient information about the refugees’ backgrounds with state authorities. Texas later said they had received this information.
  • Anti-refugee protesters clashed with anti-racism activists in Northern Ireland in response to government plans to take in 51 Syrian refugees. The right-wing group Protestant Coalition organised a demonstration to protest again the plans, but were largely outnumbered by an alliance of socialists, anarchists and church members who opposed the demonstration. The first Syrian refugees are due to arrive in Northern Ireland from Lebanon, later on this month.