January 31-February 7, 2022 Mixed Migration Update
Welcome to MMU! 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.
Last week, as investigators prepared to release yet another tranche of chilling testimony on violent pushbacks from Greece to Turkey, Turkish authorities—on the same day—accused Greek authorities of pushing about two dozen asylum seekers back across the Evros/Meriç river, with tragic consequences; and were accused of pushing 150 refugees from Istanbul to Syria (see the two sections entitled Morbidity and mortality amid the text below). Call it cynicism or call it realpolitik—there is no shortage, on either side of the Aegean, of Janus-faced rhetoric, lamenting the rule-breaking of others while denying and expecting no accountability for one’s own rule-breaking. The EU, in dispensing billions to support each country’s asylum seeker reception capacity, has incentivized all the wrong behavior from both Athens and Ankara.
The resulting state of affairs serves neither capital’s interests, nor those of Brussels, but as usual it is the most vulnerable who pay the highest cost—and who pay it, day by day, with their distress. Last Wednesday, the Somali Committee, a self-organized collective of asylum seekers living in Samos, issued an open letter to the EU protesting summary rejection of their asylum claims, fear of return to insecure and unsafe conditions in Turkey, and denial of mobility not just within Greece, but within Samos itself. I leave the word to them.
EU financing: or, how to incentivize all the wrong behaviors without improving your outcomes.
Aghanistan and its neighbors
Last Monday, Qatari authorities announced they had reached a deal with Taliban leadership to resume evacuation flights from Afghanistan, allowing Western countries to evacuate nationals and at-risk Afghans on 2 weekly chartered flights to Doha. | On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department issued new guidance on NGO access to the Afghan financial sector, allowing NGOs to deposit and transit funds through Afghan banks, and to pay taxes and other fees to Taliban authorities. On the same day, Tajik authorities announced that émigré activist Amriddin Alovatshoev, who had led a demonstration at Tajikistan’s embassy in Moscow last November that mirrored protests in the western Tajik region of Gorno-Badakhshan, and then gone missing in mid-January, had been extradited to Tajikistan to face unspecified criminal charges. | On Thursday, the Guardian confirmed that Afghan universities had reopened this week, as announced by authorities on Sunday prior, with women allowed to attend classes—though in separate classrooms, under pressure to comply with strict dress codes, and with uncertain job prospects upon completing their studies. On the same day, the International Federation of Journalists lamented that, since last August, 318 media outlets have closed across 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, halving Afghanistan’s journalist corps from over 5.000 to less than 2.400, with over 70% of that loss comprising women journalists. | On Friday, advocates called on Taliban authorities to release 6 women abducted over the last 2 weeks in connection to demonstrations demanding respect for women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Myanmar’s military dictatorship, a year out
Last Monday, aid workers revealed that Thai authorities had dismantled an informal refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border and summarily deported 3.000 refugees, displaced from Lay Kay Kaw last December, back to Myanmar. | On Tuesday, silent strikes left Myanmar’s normally congested cities unusually silent as civilians commemorated the 1-year anniversary of the military coup that toppled democratic government, triggering armed conflict and escalating displacement across the country. | On Wednesday, Myanmar’s exiled National Unity Government dropped the objections it had lodged, when in power, against the International Court of Justice’s ongoing investigation of allegations of genocide against the Rohingya community by the Tatmadaw. On the same day, Benar News relayed an appeal from fishermen in Aceh, demanding leniency for 3 fishermen convicted last June to 5 years’ imprisonment on charges of facilitating smuggling after they accepted just under $350 to help Rohingya asylum seekers reach Indonesia, arguing that the charges were disproportionate to the wrongdoing, and that it had spawned a climate of fear around rescuing asylum seekers in peril at sea. | On Thursday, rights groups condemned Thai authorities’ fee structure for health checks and COVID-19 testing for migrant laborers, charging that the 300-baht prevailing daily wage makes it impossible to afford the 9.000-baht cost of required health checks. | On Friday, local authorities disclosed that just under 8.150 Burmese civilians from the embattled villages of Haimual, Rih and Khawmawi in western Chin state had fled into India’s Mizoram state in the previous week alone, straining resources in eastern Mizoram and putting pressure on India’s national policy of denying asylum to fleeing Burmese nationals. On the same day, clashes broke out in Rakhine State between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army, with regional leaders accusing the junta of breaching a longstanding ceasefire. Also on Friday, local aid groups reported that the IDP population of Shan State had grown to 117.000 as of mid-January. | On Sunday, local authorities clarified that the past week’s arrival have brought the population of Burmese refugees in Mizoram to ~22.000.
Sources: Axios, Reuters, RFE/RL, the Guardian, TOLOnews, Benar News, UCA, the Print, AFP, Eleven Media, NDTV.
Natural disaster-borne displacement in southeastern Africa
Last Monday, regional authorities released updated tallies of the numbers displaced by Tropical Storm Ana, adding up to 148.000 in Madagascar, 121.000 in Mozambique, and 188.000 in Malawi. | On Wednesday, Mozambique’s Education Ministry disclosed that nearly 800 schools had been destroyed by Tropical Storm Ana, with additional undamaged schools closed off for students as they are occupied by internally displaced persons. | On Thursday, Cyclone Batsirai passed between Mauritius and La Réunion, cutting off electricity to thousands of homes in the former and leading to 12 injuries in the latter, on its way toward southeastern Africa. | On Saturday, Cyclone Batsirai, projected to displace some 150.000 people across southeastern Africa, struck Madagascar’s eastern coast, killing at least 10. | On Sunday, domestic authorities announced that Tropical Storm Ana had knocked 30% of Malawi’s electrical capacity, demanding $23 million in assistance to repair the damaged Kapichica hydroelectric power plant.
Conflict and internal displacement in Western and Central Africa
Last Tuesday, militants affiliated with the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo attacked the Plaine Savo camp, hosting ~4.000 IDPs in the DRC’s northeastern Ituri province, killing at least 60 civilians. | On Thursday, aid groups in DRC condemned the attack, lamenting that another 68 civilians have been killed in attacks on nearby camps since last November. On the same day, local officials in Nigeria’s southeastern Benue State blasted national authorities for neglecting the 1.5 million IDPs living across 15 informal encampments across Benue while focusing state resources on IDPs in northeastern Nigeria. | On Saturday, UNHCR announced that displacement out of Burkina Faso has accelerated in recent weeks to an average of 100 departures per day, swelling its regional refugee population to ~34.000.
Ethiopia’s civil war
Last Wednesday, Belgian authorities confirmed they had granted asylum to 2 Tigrayan Ethiopian Airlines staff who arrived in Belgium as stowaways on a December 4 flight from Addis Ababa to Brussels. | On Friday, the ICRC celebrated the landing of its 10th cargo flight in 10 days to Mekelle, bringing critically needed drugs and medical equipment into Tigray. On the same day, UNHCR announced it was rushing aid to ~20.000 displaced people in Ethiopia’s southwestern Benishangul Gumuz, host to Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees as well as Ethiopian IDPs, where escalating conflict since last December has left the populations of the Tongo and Gure-Shembola camps at increasing peril.
Sources: VOA, BBC, RFI, Reuters, Deutsche-Welle, Daily Trust, Brussels Times, ICRC, al Jazeera.
Middle East and North Africa
Morbidity and mortality at Turco-Syrian border
Last Tuesday, the UN disclosed that 2 infant children had perished of cold in IDP camps in Idlib, amid a bitter regional winter storm and unprecedented inflation affecting Syria’s economy, limiting the purchasing power of families and the intervention capacity of NGOs. On the same day, local officials reported Turkish airstrikes in northeast Syria and northwestern Iraq, purportedly targeting PKK training sites, had struck the Makhmour refugee camp, hosting Kurds exiled from Turkey in the 1990s, killing 8 and injuring 17. | On Wednesday, Syrian media circulated media shared by ~150 refugees rounded up in Turkey and summarily deported to Syria last Saturday. Also on Wednesday, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu disclosed that Turkish authorities had rescued 10 asylum seekers and retrieved 12 lifeless bodies near the Greco-Turkish land border, accusing Greek authorities of having intercepted the group of 22 and pushed them back across the border shorn of their shoes and winter wear. | On Thursday, Turkish authorities disclosed they had identified an additional 7 lifeless bodies near the land border with Greece, whom they believe died of cold after disrobed as they were being pushed back from European soil. | On Saturday, Turkish authorities disclosed they had detained 168 asylum seekers across Turkey’s territory over the previous week, the vast majority of them Afghans detained in eastern Bitlis province.
Asylum seeker abuse in Libya
Last Monday, Amnesty International implored EU leadership to halt collaboration with Libyan authorities on migration management, condemning ‘hellish’ conditions in detention centers in Libya. | On Wednesday, Libyan National Commission for Human Rights chairman Ahmed Hamza condemned EU collaboration with Libya on migration deterrence, deploring European leaders’ unwillingness to adapt policies to growing evidence of grave human rights abuses in Libya.
Conflict and environmental hazard in Yemen
Last Tuesday, local media reported that multiple Coalition airstrikes had struck TV and radio facilities in Sana’a, reporting the targeted buildings were located in residential areas but omitting reference to any civilian casualties. | On Sunday, UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen David Grassley announced successful preliminary discussions with Yemen’s Internationally Recognized Government and with Ansar Allah that may build toward solving the environmental hazard presented by the aging FSO Safer and its cargo of crude oil threatening Yemen’s Red Sea coastline.
Sources: BBC, Middle East Eye, AP, AFP, Yeni Şafak, Amnesty International, africanews, YPA.
Maritime Migration Routes to & the West
Ruta Canaria and Cenral Mediterranean
Last Tuesday, the Moroccan navy rescued 63 asylum seekers from a distressed vessel attempting a crossing to the Canary Islands. | On Wednesday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 39 asylum seekers, and tallied 16 missing persons, from a vessel that sank ~35 kilometers from Fuerteventura. | On Friday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 187 asylum seekers from 4 vessels in waters off of Gran Canaria and Lanzarote. | On Saturday, Aegean Boat Report shared media from a group of 20 asylum seekers documenting their arrival in Samos and demanding to be allowed access to the asylum system. | On Sunday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 43 asylum seekers from a vessel 5.5 kilometers north of Lanzarote. | On Sunday, rescued 3 asylum seekers from a vessel in waters south of Gran Canaria. On the same day, Tunisia’s navy rescued 163 asylum seekers from a vessel adrift off the coast of Sfax, after 24-48 hours at sea. | This Monday, Aegean Boat Report shared media showing 2 rescue dinghies carrying 30 asylum seekers relaying they had been pushed back from near the shore of Kos, to be left adrift in Turkish waters.
Last Thursday, U.S. Coast Guard officers rescued 10 asylum seekers from a vessel that sank ~40 miles off of Key Largo, repatriating 6 immediately to Cuba while evacuating the other 4 to Florida for hospital treatment. | On Saturday, Coast Guard officers of Trinidad and Tobago responded with live fire to presumed threatening behavior by a makeshift vessel carrying 20 Venezuelan asylum seekers, striking and killing a 5-month old child and wounding the child’s mother.
Sources: InfoMigrants, EFE, Aegean Boat Report, the New Arab, AP, TrinidadExpress.
Morbidity and mortality at Greco-Turkish border
Last Monday, Aegean Boat Report relayed the testimony of 2 asylum seekers who recounted that they reached the Greek island of Chios, where they were apprehended by local authorities, taken on board a ship, and then thrown into a sea and pointed toward the Turkish coast, despite pleas from a third asylum seeker—now missing—that he did not know how to swim. | On Tuesday, Greek authorities rescued 24 asylum seekers trapped on an islet in the Evros river, marking the Greco-Turkish land border, who had become stranded on the islet, returned to Turkey, and again returned to the islet by Turkish authorities over the week prior. | On Wednesday, Iranian psychologist Parvin A. went public with the story of the 6 violent pushbacks she experienced trying to irregularly enter Greece from Turkey over the first half of 2020, further disclosing she has filed charges before the UN Human Rights Council, from which she hopes to obtain a verdict facilitating further legal action in European and international tribunals.
Med5 migration (mis)management
Last Monday, Italy inaugurated a 6-week “click day” exercise, allowing agricultural and tourism sector employers to register for access to a talent pool of 42.000 non-EU workers to be issued seasonal labor visas by Italian authorities. | On Tuesday, Canary Islands child protection director-general Iratxe Serrano announced that reception centers for unaccompanied minors on the archipelago, hosting over 2.800 children, are at capacity amid insufficient transfers to mainland Spain, warning that future arrivals may need to be hosted in police stations of first registration for lack of proper reception facilities. On the same day, Cypriot Interior Minister Nicos Nouris announced the completion of Standard Operation Procedures for Returns, to be implemented in collaboration with Frontex and EUAA and relieve pressure on Cyprus’ reception capacity. | On Thursday, a Maltese court sat to hear testimony in the ongoing case against the El Hiblu 3, entering testimony into the court record whereby the 3 defendants, teenagers rescued by a commercial ship in the Central Mediterranean accused of hijacking once the El Hiblu docked in Malta, had calmed down agitation among the rescued asylum seekers by offering to mediate with the ship’s captains, and had peacefully appealed to be disembarked in Europe, rather than coerce that outcome. On the same day, a judge in Palermo convicted 2 Bangladeshi men of having organized and conducted torture on other asylum seekers in the Zuhara detention center in Libya, before crossing the Mediterranean and entering Italy as asylum seekers. | On Friday, Spain’s Interior Ministry ordered the resumption of deportation flights from the Canary Islands to Morocco from the following Monday onwards, on the heels of a renewed a repatriation agreement with Moroccan authorities.
Migration management contrasts in the UK and Ireland: a study in contrasts
Last Tuesday, the Home Office announced that a disused military installation in Manston, Kent, had been repurposed into a reception and processing center for arriving asylum seekers, with capacity to host several hundred starting this month. | On Wednesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel admitted to Parliament that the UK does not offer lawful pathways to protection for asylum seekers from countries other than Syria and Afghanistan, emphasizing her belief that the majority of arrivals from other nationalities are composed of economic migrants—(a claim contradicted by the Home Office’s own refugee status determination statistics. On the same day, the Royal Navy categorically ruled out carrying out pushbacks in the English Channel as it edges toward taking responsibility for irregular maritime crossings to the UK. Also on Wednesday, Home Office second permanent secretary Tricia Hayes disclosed that the cost of accommodating 37.000 asylum seekers and Afghan evacuees in hotels across the UK currently adds up to £1.2 million per day. | On Thursday, Home Secratary Priti Patel corrected her deputy, disclosing that the Home Office was spending a total 4.7 million per day on overflow asylum seeker accommodation in hotels—clarifying that the £1.2 million covered the accommodation costs of 12.000 Afghan evacuees who arrived last summer, with the remaining £3.5 million covering the accommodation costs of other asylum seekers. On the same day, authorities in Ireland opened a 6-month registration period for irregular migrants with at least 4 years’ demonstrable residency in Ireland (reduced to 3 years for parents of minor children) to obtain status and access a pathway to citizenship.
EU migration policymaking
Last Wednesday, EU Commission officials disclosed that they intend to deliver the Libyan Coast Guard 3 new search-and-rescue ships, and 2 additional refurbished ships, by this summer, when irregular maritime crossings are expected to increase. | On Thursday, the French Presidency of the Council of the EU proposed creating a novel Schengen Council to channel policymaking challenges regarding EU border control while tackling other elements of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, as EU ministers conferred and debated intra-EU transfers, externalization, barrier construction and instrumentalization. | On Friday, Turkish deputy Foreign Minister in charge of EU affairs Faruk Kaymakcı lamented the state of Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, attributing lack of progress in part to Greece’s refusal to repatriate Turks suspected of participation in the 2016 attempted coup and its designation of Turkey as a safe country of return for non-Turks, but not for Turkish nationals. On the same day, Europol announced it had dismantled a smuggling operation facilitating irregular transport by air from Greece to Germany.
Sources: Aegean Boat Report, efsyn, der Spiegel, InfoMigrants, EFE, the Times of Malta, ANSA, BBC, the Independent, Reuters, the Guardian, AP, EUobserver.
U.S. migration policymaking
Last Monday, Notícias Telemundo Investiga revealed that the Biden Administration has deported 176 Venezuelan asylum seekers, via third countries, between October 2020 and November 2021, despite knowing the risks they would face upon return and blasting the preceding Administration’s use of the same practice. | On Tuesday, the Independent revealed that U.S. and Colombian officials had recently confirmed a bilateral agreement to return Venezuelans arriving on U.S. soil after having transited through Colombia, using Title 42 authority to return them without offering them a chance to lodge asylum claims. | On Thursday, the CDC announced that the Biden Administration would keep Title 42 in place, allowing U.S. authorities to summarily return asylum seekers intercepted on U.S. soil without allowing them to lodge asylum claims, nominally as a measure to contain the spread of COVID-19. | On Friday, the Biden Administration leaked that it intends to launch an expedited review and resettlement process for Afghan civilians evacuated to Qatar, which would see them relocated within 30 days to U.S. soil with refugee status or special immigrant visas, each of which offer a fast-track pathway to citizenship. On the same day, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit against the New Orleans branch of ICE, accusing them to conducting several dozen deportations in recent weeks without giving deportees reasonable fear interviews or a chance to lodge asylum petitions. | This Monday, Reuters disclosed that the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security are all investigating fraudulent hiring of migrant laborers and abusive working conditions in chicken processing plants in Alabama, as part of a strategic shift in immigration enforcement from targeting individual migrants, to targeting employers abusing their vulnerability.
Irregular migration in Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean
Last Tuesday, lawmakers in Guatemala approved legislation extending the penalty for human smuggling from 6-8 to 10-30 years’ imprisonment. | On Thursday, asylum seekers demonstrated in southern Mexico, demanding swifter procedures to register with Mexican authorities and be allowed to transit out of homelessness in Tapachula and travel to other parts of Mexico. | On Friday, prosecutors in Guatemala charged 10 smugglers on multiple counts of criminal conspiracy, money laundering, and human trafficking, among other crimes, over their role organizing an irregular crossing through Mexico that led to 19 asylum seekers being murdered in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas. On the same day, authorities in Veracruz reported they had intercepted just under 375 asylum seekers transiting irregularly through Mexico’s southwest, including just over 310 in an unventilated truck trailer. | On Saturday, Cuban journalist Yailen Insua arrived in Bogotá for a supposed layover on her way to Nicaragua, but was stranded there when she learned that Nicaraguan authorities would deny her entry, leading her to petition for asylum in Colombia. | On Sunday, police in Tijuana dismantled an informal encampment near the Chaparral border crossing, first occupied in February 2021 in response to metering at the port of entry, and hosting just over 375 people as of this last weekend. On the same day, Colombia’s Ministry of Health announced it would provide HIV treatment to 3.000 displaced Venezuelans in multiple Colombian cities to ensure continuity of care.
Refugee abuse in Brazil
Last Monday, health authorities in Rio de Janeiro revealed that the death of a refugee from the DRC on the Monday prior had been caused by blunt force trauma inflicted by his employer, reacting to his employee’s request to have his back pay disbursed. | On Friday, Brazilian civil society leaders condemned racialized violence in Brazil and called for demonstrations to commemorate the life and protest the violent death of Moïse Mugenyi Kabagambe. | On Saturday, mass demonstrations took place is Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and multiple other major Brazilian cities to condemn violence against Black Brazilians.
Irregular migration between Bolivia and Chile
Last Thursday, Chilean Foreign Minister Andrés Allamand met with his Spanish counterpart in Madrid, prompting protests by domestic opposition leaders that he was missing in action as protests against irregular migration peaked in northern Chile, leading government officials to insist Allamand was in Spain on vacation, and Allamand himself to resign by the end of the week. | On Sunday, Chile’s and Bolivia’s Interior Ministers announced the forthcoming launch of 3 parallel roundtables to discuss and craft policy around irregular migration, trafficking in contraband, and human trafficking, with Chile’s interim Foreign Minister indicating his keenness to sign bilateral cooperation agreements in short order.
Sources: Telemundo, the Independent, CBS News, NBC News, Reuters, EFE, AP, AFP, el Espectador, Globo, the Guardian, RPP.
Last Monday, the city council of Hobart approved 2 largely symbolic motions to advocate for the release of refugees from onshore detention across Australia, and to allow the 30 refugees held at Melbourne’s Park Hotel to be transferred to Tasmania and settled in Hobart. | On Wednesday, the Human Rights Law Centre released findings from a survey showing that clear majorities of Australians favor the economic and cultural benefits that immigration brings to Australia, and favor a pathway to permanent residency for temporary visa holders.
Sources: SBS, the Guardian.