March 21-28, 2022 Mixed Migration—hebdo
This week, we skip the Spotlight straight to updates marked by education setbacks for at-risk & displaced people in Afghanistan & Bangladesh, and by the continuing large-scale departures from Ukraine.
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.
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No Spotlight this week—although if you’d like a penny for my thoughts, you can catch them in the New Humanitarian:
On to the news…
Last Tuesday, Taliban leaders made a last-minute decision reversing their prior commitment to reopening secondary girls’ education at the end of March, limiting girls’ education in Afghanistan to primary education, up to age 11. | On Friday, several dozen women, including dual nationals trying to board international flights, were denied boarding at Kabul International Airport by Taliban officials due to lacking a male guardian flying with them. | On Sunday, the WHO announced it had resumed capacity-training programming interrupted after the fall of Afghanistan’s internationally-recognized government last August. On the same day, the WFP announced that funding shortfalls were straining its ability to operate in Afghanistan and that it could be forced to halt operations altogether if international donors and Taliban officials could not agree on acceptable mechanisms to fund humanitarian intervention in Afghanistan.
Myanmar and its neighbors
Last Monday, Human Rights Watch revealed that Bangladeshi authorities have threatened Rohingya community leaders with the seizure of their UNHCR-issued ID cards and with removal to Bhasan Char if they violate official prohibitions on providing education to Rohingya children encamped near Cox’s Bazaar. | On Tuesday, Bangladeshi officials publicly rejected an offer from Myanmar to repatriate 700 Rohingya refugees, charging that the commitment had already declined from an original 28.000 returns to only 11.000, and that the list of returnees split families apart and represented an unserious proposal. On the same day, Myanmar’s opposition NUG Minister of Women, Youth and Children Affairs relayed her conviction that the military junta has abducted just over 285 children of wanted activists since retaking power in a coup a year go, holding them hostage to pressure opposition figures into turning themselves in to authorities. | On Friday, Bangladeshi authorities intercepted a trawler carrying 58 Rohingya refugees toward Malaysia, under suspicion they were being trafficked. | On Sunday, Burmese military leader Min Aung Hlaing committed to intensify the Tatmadaw’s campaign against domestic insurgent groups, ruling out peace talks and vowing to annihilate opponents. | This Monday, Bangladeshi authorities announced they had closed the privately-run Kayaphuri high school, founded by Mohib Ullar before his assassination and teaching the Burmese curriculum to Rohingya children aged 14 and above.
Sources: AP, TOLOnews, HRW, Benar News, the Guardian, the Daily Star, AFP.
Middle East and North Africa
Looming food insecurity and instability in North Africa
Last Monday, the FAO issued an assessment predicting a substantial decrease in Sudan’s cereal harvests this year, with sorghum yields expected at 32% below last year’s, and millet yields at just half, with the FAO and WFP following up Wednesday with a joint warning that the resulting inflation could double the number of people facing extreme hunger from 9 million to 18 million over the rest of the year (see the FAO’s report here, and the FAO-WFP joint statement here). | On Tuesday, WFP Executive Director David Beasley met with European Commission officials to demand EU assistance plugging an $8 billion shortfall, warning that food insecurity, accelerated by the knockout of Ukraine and Russian food and fertilizer exports, would circle back to Europe in the form of accelerated irregular migration if European financing falls short.
Instability and displacement in the Levant and northeast Africa
Last Wednesday, Save the Children issued a statement deploring that there remain 25.000 of suspected foreign fighters encamped in the al-Hol and Roj detention camps in northeastern Syria, and that at the current rate of repatriation, it would take 30 years for all these children to return to their home countries (see StC’s full statement here). | On Thursday, mass demonstrations broke out in Khartoum, protesting the military junta’s ongoing hold on power and suddenly rising food prices, with one protester killed by security forces. | On Sunday, Human Rights Watch issued a report documenting the arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of 3 Sudanese refugees in Egypt between December of last year and this February, demanding a serious investigation and compliance with international refugee law of Egyptian authorities (see HRW’s full report here).
Yemen’s civil war
Last Friday, overnight Saudi airstrikes killed 7 civilians and destroyed a power plant, fuel supply station and insurance office in Sana’a, as well as oil facilities in Hodeidah, in retaliation for an Ansar Allah drone raid that destroyed a Saudi Aramco oil depo in Jeddah. | On Saturday, amid UN condemnation for the previous 48 hours’ escalating retaliatory airstrikes, Ansar Allah leadership announced a 3-day ceasefire, inviting Saudi authorities to use the lull to enter meaningful peace talks.
Sources: the Guardian, Politico, Middle East Eye, the EastAfrican, al Jazeera, AFP.
Internal displacement in Nigeria, food insecurity in East Africa
Last Tuesday, Nigerian authorities formally launched a novel National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons, domestically executing the Kamapala Convention and clarifying national, regional, and local mandates over providing protection and support to Nigerian IDPs. | On Thursday, Kenyan authorities warned that 2.8 million people in 23 Kenyan provinces urgently need food assistance, up from 2.1 million last fall, with 28 million people across East Africa facing potential famine should spring rains fail.
Ethiopia’s civil war
Last Wednesday, the Guardian relayed the suffering—ongoing and potential—as food insecurity permeates Tigray’s civilian population, with 13% of children under 5 and 60% of pregnant and lactating mothers malnourished, commercial infrastructure comatose, and aid corridors largely inoperable. | On Thursday, Ethiopia’s federal government declared an indefinite humanitarian truce to Ethiopia’s 16-month civil war, intended to ease suffering in Tigray, reduce displacement from Tigray to neighboring regions, and lay the groundwork for a peace process to end hostilities. On the same day, Tigrayan leaders announced they would uphold the ceasefire so long as aid deliveries kept up with civilian needs in Tigray. | On Saturday, OCHA tallied that here are ~115.000 severely malnourished children in Tigray, urging authorities to authorize the resumption overland aid deliveries as soon as possible. On the same day, the Afar People’s Party voiced its skepticism to the humanitarian truce, lamenting that it did not provide solutions to the 700.000 IDPs displaced by the TPLF advance into Afar. | This Monday, local officials documented an accumulation of Ethiopian troops in the town of Kobo in northeast Amhara, raising questions as to whether their presence was meant to facilitate humanitarian corridors into Tigray, or rather a prequel to a renewed assault against the TPLF
Sources: Voice of Nigeria, the EastAfrican, the Guardian, Addis Standard, Reuters, Bloomberg.
Maritime Migration Routes to & through the West
Gulf of Mexico
Last Tuesday, Guatemalan authorities detained 58 mainly Cuban asylum seekers preparing to depart the Rio Dulce lake and river system and sail across the Gulf of Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S., expelling them to Honduras, their prior country of transit.
Central and western Mediterranean
Last Thursday, the Ocean Viking rescued 30 asylum seekers from a distressed inflatable vessel in Central Mediterranean. | On Friday, the Ocean Viking rescued another 128 asylum seekers, and retrieved 2 lifeless bodies, from an overloaded vessel in the Central Mediterranean. | On Monday, the Ocean Viking was assigned a safe port of disembarkation in Sicily.
The English Channel
Last Tuesday, 394 asylum seekers were rescued from 11 vessels in UK waters and brought ashore, while French authorities intercepted another 467 attempting the same crossing. | On Wednesday, 59 asylum seekers traveling on 3 vessels reached UK soil across the English Channel. | On Thursday, 190 asylum seekers reached UK soil, while French authorities prevented another 69 from reaching British waters.
This Saturday, ~50 asylum seekers reached the northern shores of Lesvos autonomously, 28 of whom were apprehended and taken to reception facilities in Kara Tepe, and 12 of whom remained in hiding as of Sunday. On the same day, local attorney Dimitris Choulis denounced that 8 Turkish asylum seekers had been pushed back from Samos after having reached Greek soil.
This Saturday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 114 asylum seekers from 2 vessels in waters off of Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria. | On Sunday, a vessel carrying 47 asylum seekers and one lifeless body arrived autonomously in El Hierro, with two more passengers rushed to hopsital upon arrival. On the same day, Salvamento Marítimo rescued another 76 asylum seekers from 2 vessels off the coasts of Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Also on Sunday, Moroccan authorities reported they had detained 236 asylum seekers preparing to attempt an irregular crossing to the Canary Islands, and retrieved 2 lifeless bodies from a vessel that is believed to have capsized in the Atlantic with an unknown number of passengers aboard. | On Monday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued another 52 asylum seekers from a vessel off the coast of Lanzarote. On the same day, Salvamento Marítimo rescued another 34 asylum seekers from a vessel in waters 25 kilometers south of Gran Canaria.
Sources: Reuters, InfoMigrants, AFP, BBC, the Evening Standard, Aegean Boat Report, Dimitris Choulis, EFE.
Ukraine: displacement and protection
Last Tuesday, Moldovan Health Minister Ala Nemerenco appealed for EU and UN assistance to sustain Moldova’s health system through the strain visited by the sudden transit of over 330.000 displaced Ukrainians, ~100.000 of whom have opted to remain in Moldova to remain proximity to their homes and retain linguistic kinship. On the same day, Reuters revealed that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has demanded the EU release funds from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, withheld from Hungary and Poland due to rule of law concerns, on account of the strain represented by the arrival of ~450.000 Ukrainians in less than a month. | On Wednesday, Lighthouse Reports revealed there are 52 third-country nationals in migrant detention in Poland after being displaced from Ukraine, and at least 2 more detained in Estonia, in violation of the Temporary Protection Directive approved by the EU in early March. On the same day, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson announced an EU Solidarity Platform to support and coordinate state efforts to receive and protect Ukrainian refugees, and the mobilization of €3.4 billion to sustain the initiative. Also on Wednesday, Commissioner Johansson announced that she would propose measures to equitably distribute Ukrainian refugees across the EU at a JHA EU Council summit the following Monday, clarifying the Commission did not intend to propose mandatory relocation quotas as it did in 2015. | On Thursday, Reuters leaked a draft agreement to allow Ukrainian refugees to convert hryvnia for the currency of their country of asylum at a fixed rate, protecting their purchasing power from exchange rate fluctuations. | On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced he intended to launch a humanitarian operation alongside Turkey and Greece to evacuate ~150.000 civilians trapped in Mariupol. | On Sunday, Positive Action in Housing CEO Robina Qureshi blasted UK authorities’ Homes for Ukraine scheme, charging that the application process was complex and visa issuance ineffective, and that as a result at-risk families were being fed false hope and further endangered while awaiting visas. On the same day, iNews relayed the concerns of local councils across the UK, struggling to prepare for Ukrainian refugee arrivals without a clear sense of how many will arrive, how to conduct inspections of potential hosts, or what will happen when Homes for Ukraine expires in 6 months. | This Monday, advocates urged the Home Office to offer solutions to ~6.000 Ukrainians in the UK under T5 seasonal farmworker visas, which have thus far been extended through the end of 2024, but which limit visa holders to a single agricultural employer, offer few protections against labor abuse, and do not offer family reunification. On the same day, EURACTIV relayed criticism against Slovakia’s Interior Ministry for granting a €2.5 million no-bid contract to a company tied to the ruling party to streamline refugee reception and integration, and then falsely claiming that the company had been recommended by NGOs operating at the Slovak-Ukrainian border. Also on Monday, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser insisted, in as she arrived in Brussels for an EU Council summit on Ukrainian refugee arrivals, that the EU should play a more active role equitably distributing arrivals across EU member states.
Med5 migration (mis)management
Last Monday, Spanish authorities announced they would shortly resume repatriation flights from the Canary Islands to Morocco, after Rabat interrupted returns in April 2021 as an nominal COVID-19 protection measure. | On Wednesday, the El Hiblu 3 spoke out for the first time in letters inserted into a Free the El Hiblu 3 campaign report, laying out their reasons from departing their home countries, for fleeing Libya, their acts to mediate between the captain of the El Hiblu and the distressed asylum seekers it had onboarded, and the shock provoked by the charges laid against them, and potential imprisonment if convicted, upon arrival in Malta (see the full report here). | On Thursday, Cypriot Interior Minister Nikos Nouris announced he intends to request additional migration management support from the European Commission as Cyprus strains to finance housing for asylum seekers, who have come to comprise ~5% of the domestic population. | On Friday, Spanish authorities deported Algerian whistleblower and activitist Mohamen Benahlima, despite pressure from advocates to offer him protection and warnings he was likely to face abuse if repatriated. | This Monday, Cypriot Interior Minister Nouris announced his intention to launch an electronic surveillance system this August to monitor irregular migration across the buffer zone separating the Republic of Cyprus and the occupied north of Cyprus.
UK migration policymaking
Last Tuesday, the House of Commons restored most amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill stripped off by the House of Lords, returning to the bill the criminalization of irregular entry and possibility of processing arrivals offshore that opposition parties and immigration advocates had hoped would remain inert. On the same day, the Home Office announced it had accepted an amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill allowing Chagossian islanders to apply for British citizenship free of charge. | On Friday, the High Court ruled that Project Sunshine, a Home Office initiative in operation between April and November 2020, allowing asylum officers to seize the phones of asylum seekers and extract their data, was unlawful, as there was no valid parliamentary authority for the seizures and a breach of the Home Office’s duty of candor as the program was unacknowledged upon launch. On the same day, The Telegraph revealed that UK authorities have disbursed £10 million to Belgian authorities to build and operate maritime border control infrastructure intended to prevent irregular crossings of the English Channel.
Baltics border brinksmanship
On Wednesday, Polish authorities disclosed that they had intercepted 134 attempted irregular arrivals over the 24 hours prior from Belarus, a record number since the winter lull in crossings. On the same day, Polish authorities detained 4 activists on suspicion of smuggling asylum seekers from Belarus across the border, with Grupa Granica condemning the accusation and responding that the activists had only encountered a family in poor state on Polish soils to provide them basic assistance. | On Sunday, Grupa Granica held a press conference in front of a regional border force headquarters, where they provided media documenting the apprehension and pushback of 3 families of Kurdish asylum seekers, several in critical health, near Białystok.
Sources: Reuters, the Independent, AP, Politico, the Guardian, iNews, EURACTIV, EFE, InfoMigrants, the Objective, Cyrpus Mail, the Telegraph, tvn24.pl.
U.S. migration policymaking
On Thursday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced a forthcoming overhaul of the U.S. asylum determination system, allowing asylum officers to adjudicate cases without recurring to the backlogged immigration court system, with the hope of reducing the length of the the refugee status determination process to 90 days. On the same day, Biden Administration officials leaked that they intend to admit up to 100.000 Ukrainian refugees in the near future, through a combination of pathways including resettlement, family visas, and humanitarian parole. Also on Thursday, DHS revealed that, following an agreement with Bogotá, it had begun repatriating asylum seekers directly to Colombia using Title 42 on March 4, removing several hundred Colombians over the remainder of this month. | On Friday, Colombian officials confirmed Title 42 return flights directly to Colombia, tallying that 600 Colombian asylum seekers had thus been expelled from U.S. soil in recent weeks.
Migration and its drivers in Latin America
Last Wednesday, a group of 60 Venezuelan asylum seekers staged a protest demanding freedom of movement within Mexico in front of the seat of the Tabasco State government in Villahermosa, charging that they had transited through 11 countries unimpeded but upon reaching Mexico were boxed into either staying at a migrant hostel or requesting repatriation. | On Thursday, 254 displaced Venezuelans took a voluntary return flight from Perú, facilitated by Venezuela’s plan vuelta a la patria air bridge from South American countries of asylum. On the same day, Cuban director-general for consular affairs Ernesto Soberón blasted U.S. migration policies toward Cuban nationals, charging that the closure of the U.S. Consulate in La Habana since 2017 forces Cubans wishing to reach U.S. soil to either transit through third countries, such as Guyana, with no guarantee of obtaining an onward U.S. visa, or to attempt irregular and often dangerous migration routes. | On Friday, UNHCR tallied that the number of Nicaraguan refugees in Costa Rica has doubled over the last 8 months to 150.000 in total, representing 3% of the total Costa Rican population.
Sources: CBS News, Reuters, Deutsche-Welle, la Jornada, EFE, IPS.
Regional refugee resettlement
Last Thursday, Australian authorities announced they would take up a regional resettlement deal struck 9 years ago but never implemented, whereby a yearly 150 refugees detained in Nauru or medavac’ed to Australia would be allowed to resettle in New Zealand over the coming 3 years.
Sources: the Guardian.