February 21-28, 2022 Mixed Migration—hebdo
This week's MMh kicks off with a brief reflection on conflict and displacement out of Ukraine in relation to conflict and displacement elsewhere around the world, before turning to the week's updates.
Welcome to MMh! Here—in the time it takes to read one feature—you get a global sweep of the last week's most relevant migration policy developments, & links to all the articles you need to dig deeper.
This has been a surreal week in which to write Mixed Migration—hebdo. A surreal week in which to exist, at a personal level, but also a surreal week for assignment editors in newsrooms worldwide, as public attention shifted suddenly and intensely toward Ukraine. You’ll see the shift below: MMh already slants toward transmitting migration coverage originating from and relevant to Western states, for structural reasons and due to my subconscious biases. This week the slant is even more pronounced than usual.
I’m no more an expert on post-Soviet Europe than the next person, and already said all I could say with a degree of expertise in last week’s episode of the Fractured podcast, so if you want my take on how displacement out of Ukraine will affect Europe and broader migration trends, start there. What I do want to do is echo discomfort, better articulated elsewhere, with polite society’s sudden discovery of the phenomenon of forced migration now that those it affects are near neighbors that cannot be otherised. Echo discomfort with European governments’ sudden rediscovery of their legal and moral obligation to offer protection to refugees. I also want to remind us all to not lose track of atrocious conflicts blazing on in Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria, or Myanmar—to name just a few. At a moral level, our solidarity is null if it is anything short of universal. And at a practical level, illiberal eastern European governments’ sudden about-face creates opportunities to apply political and diplomatic leverage, which is already triggering discomfort and forcing responses that did not warrant bother when the accusation concerned asylum seekers of color.
We can We should We must meet the needs and honor the plight of displaced Ukrainians while advocating for the needs and plight of displaced people worldwide if we want to achieve structural change. Anything less is gaslighting by consent.
On to the news…
Last Tuesday, the ICRC announced the Hospital Resilience Project, through which it will support the Afghan healthcare system by paying the salaries of 10.000 clinicians and supporting the operational costs of 28 medical centers. On the same day, the Taliban Ministry of Education announced it had finalized a plan to maintain primary schooling but separate boys’ and girls’ education by holding classes at different times, while educators continue demanding a plan for the resumption of schooling in grades 6 and above. Also on Tuesday, Indian authorities saw off a convoy of 50 trucks carrying 2.500 tons of wheat to Afghanistan, the first of 20 such convoys intended to ultimately deliver 50.000 tons of wheat via a rarely used overland route crossing Pakistani soil. | On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a new license allowing NGOs, financial organizations, and private sector groups to engage in financial transactions without violating existing sanctions against Taliban officials. | On Saturday, OCHA official Reena Ghelani tallied that there are currently ~4 million children facing malnutrition in Afghanistan, ~137.000 of whom are expected to die this year. | On Sunday, Taliban officials announced novel travel restrictions from Afghans going abroad, requiring that emigrants have a clearly defined destination to exit the country and restricting women from studying abroad unless accompanied by a male guardian. This Monday, officials in Afghanistan’s western Herat and Nimroz provinces tallied ~3.000 border crossings every day by Afghan emigrants seeking livelihoods in Iran. On the same day, a convoy of 28 trucks carrying 3.600 tons of wheat donated by the Pakistani government crossed the border into Afghanistan.
Myanmar and its neighbors
Last Wednesday, the Karenni Human Rights Group disclosed that rice stocks are running dangerously low in IDP camps hosting ~170.000 civilians in Kayah State, on the heels of NGO withdrawals following a brutal attack on Hpruso Township in late December where 2 Save the Children responders were killed. | On Friday, a fire broke out at the Balukhali Rohingya refugee camp in mainland Bangladesh, burning 30 shelters and 15 shops but leading to no casualties. | On Sunday, ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan completed a week-long visit to Bangladesh, including visits of Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar, pursuant to the ICC investigation launched in 2019 against Burmese authorities, now proceeding in parallel with litigation brought forth by the Gambia before the ICJ. | This Monday, 80 children held hostage by Tatmadaw forces for the previous 36 hours were released, relaying Burmese forces’ assault on the village of Chin Pone, killing at least 9 civilians.
Sources: TOLOnews, Reuters, MENAFN, the Irrawaddy, RFA, UNB.
Conflict and displacement in the Horn of Africa
Last Wednesday, 15 Tigrayan peacekeepers deployed in Abyei refused to board return flights as their deployment to South Sudan expired, fearing persecution upon arrival in Ethiopia. | On Friday, al Jazeera relayed testimonials, including allegations of mass killings and sexual assault, from Tigrayan civilians victimized by Ethiopian troops amid fighting last December for Abala, a ethnically mixed town on the border of Tigray and Afar. On the same day, IOM issued a warning that a fourth successive failed rainy season this late spring is likely to cause severe drought in Somalia, with nearly 250.000 already displaced, and further displacement likely to affect between 1 million and 1.4 million over the next 6 months.
Internal displacement in Nigeria
Last Sunday, Stefanos Foundation scholar Mark Lipdo relayed the concerns of inhabitants of 51 IDP camps in Nigeria’s central belt, who fear being excluded from national elections scheduled for 2023 as the electoral commission neglects to engage with internally displaced voters.
Sources: AP, al Jazeera, IOM, the Punch.
Middle East and North Africa
Irregular migration deterrence in Turkey
Last Monday, Turkish authorities detained 78 asylum seekers, most of them Afghans, in Van province in eastern Turkey, and another 5 in Western Thrace attempting to make an irregular crossing into Bulgaria.
Yemen’s civil war
Last Thursday, local authorities revealed that Ansar Allah officials had detained a former U.S. Embassy staffer, bringing the number of Embassy staffer under indefinite detention to at least 11. | On Saturday, Ansar Allah officials denounced the killing of 5 civilians and wounding of 16 civilians in multiple air and artillery strikes in Sa’ada. This Monday, the UN Security Council took up a motion to widen an existing arms embargo against specific Ansar Allah officials to have it cover the entire movement, in reaction to recent missile and drone attacks against Saudi and Emirati infrastructure.
Sources: Yeni Şafak, AP, Daily Yemen, Reuters.
Maritime Migration Routes to & through Europe
Last Monday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 104 asylum seekers from 2 distressed vessels in waters off of Tenerife and Lazarote. | On Thursday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 387 asylum seekers from 7 distressed vessels in waters off of Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura. | On Friday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 177 asylum seekers from 4 distressed vessels in waters south of Gran Canaria.
Central and western Mediterranean
Last Monday, Italian Coast Guard officers rescued 573 asylum seekers and retrieved 2 lifeless bodies from 2 vessels in distress in rough waters off the coast of Sicily. | On Tuesday, IOM disclosed that, over the week prior, the Libyan Coast Guard had intercepted and pulled back 632 aspiring asylum seekers. | On Friday, Italian authorities assigned the Sea Watch 4 a safe port of docking at Porto Empedocle, in Sicily, allowing them to disembark 129 asylum seekers rescued from the Central Mediterranean on February 19. | On Sunday, a vessel sank in the Central Mediterranean, leading to the drowning of 50-60 asylum seekers.
The English Channel
Last Saturday, 132 asylum seekers reached UK soil after crossing the English Channel in 4 vessels.
Sources: EFE, InfoMigrants, the Libya Observer, ANSA, BBC.
Ukraine’s defensive war
Last Wednesday, Russian forces launched a military invasion of Ukraine, triggering significant internal migration toward Western Ukraine and increasing arrivals at border crossing points in Poland and Moldova. | On Thursday, Ukrainian authorities prohibited the exit from Ukraine of able-bodied men aged 18-60, to sustain military conscription efforts by the Ukrainian military. On the same day, Hungarian authorities condemned Russian aggression and committed to offer protection to Ukrainians fleeing into Hungary, signaling they expect as many as 600.000 arrivals. | On Friday, UNHCR disclosed that ~50.000 Ukrainians had fled advancing Russian forces, with ~30.000 arrivals to Poland and ~17.500 arrivals to Moldova as of Friday and with arrival numbers certain to rise. On the same day, news media relayed the fears of some 80.000 foreign students, with especially large contingents from India, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Nigeria, stranded in the crosshairs of Russian aggression with limited options to flee Ukraine. Also on Friday, Irish Justice Minister Helen McEntee announced the lifting of all visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals trying to enter Ireland. | On Saturday, Croatian authorities announced they have capacity to host 3.500 displaced Ukrainians currently, and are working to expand that capacity to 17.000 in the near future. On the same day, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis announced that Greece was ready to take in Ukrainian refugees provided that arrivals be coordinated and financed by the EU, making a questionable distinction between displaced Ukrainians’ eligibility for refugee status and that of other displaced communities. Also on Saturday, Serbian authorities condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and announced they would send humanitarian aid and be willing to host Ukrainian refugees, despite having refused on the day prior to issue sanctions against Russia. | On Sunday, UNHCR estimated that nearly 370.000 Ukrainians had fled into neighboring countries since hostilities had begun, facing waits of up to 70 hours at the Polish border. On the same day, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson proposed before the EU Council to invoke the EU Temporary Protection Directive, promulgated in the 1990s but never employed, which would offer displace Ukrainians prima facie refugee status, expediting the procedures for them to obtain asylum in an EU member state. On the same day, UK authorities announced reductions in visa requirements intended to allow Ukrainians to join family members settled in the UK, drawing protests from opposition lawmakers as a package falling far short of the government’s initial promises. | This Monday, Commissioner Johansson announced that the EU Council had agreed to invoke the EU Temporary Protection Directive, expecting it to be officially activated this coming Thursday. On the same day, the Globe and Mail relayed testimonials from African and Asian residents of Ukraine encountering differential barriers and evident racism as they attempt to enter neighboring European countries to attain protection. Also on Monday, UNHCR tallied that more than half a million Ukrainian civilians have become refugees since the outbreak of hostilities, tallying another ~160.000 internally displaced, and just under 35.000 intra-EU onward movements.
Baltics border brinksmanship
Last Monday, Polish police found the body of a 26-year old Yemeni asylum seeker in a swampy area near the village of Tolipo, a few kilometers inland from the border with Belarus. | On Thursday, Polish authorities and civil society organizations warned that irregular crossings from Belarus appear to be on the rise after a lull in January, suspecting an effort by Belarussian authorities to destabilize Poland as Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine continues.
Med5 migration (mis)management
Last Tuesday, ECJ Advocate General Athanasios Rantos issued an opinion, as part of ongoing litigation by Sea-Watch against Italian authorities’ fastidious inspections of its rescue ships, advising the ECJ that inspecting rescue ships falls within national authorities’ powers and that it should side with Italy against Sea-Watch. Greek authorities announced that they would promptly reduce the ESTIA II program, which provides urban accommodation to asylum seekers in Greece, from its current 27.000 places to 10.000, with an eye to shutting the program down entirely by the end of this year. | On Friday, opposition lawmakers in Greece warned that the Philos program, which provides healthcare to encamped asylum seekers in Greece, is due to expire on February 28, urging lawmakers to act swiftly to ensure continuity of access to basic healthcare for thousands of vulnerable people.
Frontex under investigation, UK border control
Last Monday, OLAF announced it had completed a year-long investigation into Frontex, launched on the heels of a raid of its headquarters in January 2021, and which may reveal poor practices in personnel recruitment as well as in conducting unlawful border control measures. | On Thursday, UK authorities issues figures tallying 2.830 deportations between January and September 2021, the lowest deportation figure on record, undermining Home Secretary Priti Patel’s claims to have strengthened border control over her tenure at the Home Office.
Sources: the Guardian, CNN, EURACTIV, the Telegraph, Rolling Stone, RTE, HINA, Ekathimerini, Politico, Reuters, the Globe and Mail, the Globe Post, InfoMigrants, EUobserver, Hellenic Ministry of Migration.
Irregular migration and its drivers in Latin America
Last Friday, municipal authorities in Rio de Janeiro announced the Refugee Assistance Program, offering livelihood support to refugee youth victimized by xenophobic violence. | On Saturday, Mexican and Bahaman authorities repatriated 78 Cuban asylum seekers, apprehended as they were attempting to reach U.S. soil via irregular means. On the same day, Mexican authorities repatriated 137 Guatemalan asylum seekers apprehended in Hermosillo while trying to reach the U.S.-Mexico border. | This Monday, U.S. and El Salvadorean authorities announced a $20 million program to issue scholarships to potential and returned emigrants, to facilitate their pursuit of livelihoods within El Salvador.
Sources: EFE, Tribuna, elsalvador.com.