May 2-9, 2022 Mixed Migration—hebdo
This week, we finally discuss the resignation of Frontex Director Leggeri, before turning to a shocking retreat in women's rights in Afghanistan & other contributors and outcomes of global migration.
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Last week’s Spotlight should have covered the resignation of Fabrice Leggeri as Executive Director of Frontex, but instead I had already written on a different subject by the time he announced his resignation. I just finished recording a new episode of the Fractured Podcast, where I discuss his resignation—so rather than re-write that here, I’ll invite you to listen to it when it drops (should be this Thursday). In the meantime, I thought I would brainstorm a bit what Frontex could look like, if its priorities in recent years had been to fulfill its stated mission (controlling EU external borders while upholding human rights). Were Frontex to operate according to its mandate, its tasks might include:
Deterring irregular arrivals—non-violently. This could involve installing and monitoring border markers and patrolling unmarked borders, to discourage irregular entry and channel arriving asylum seekers toward regular crossing points.
Providing basic assistance to irregular arrivals once they have taken place. It is not the role of Frontex, nor of any border force, to adjudicate whether an arriving individual is a refugee or a non-refugee migrant.—that is a task for competent asylum authorities. As soon as asylum seekers have entered domestic soil, all border police can do is registration and assistance, never deterrence or summary return.
Ensuring security along external borders—to protect not the state from the perceived threat of irregular migration, but rather to protect asylum seekers from localized threats. Such threats could range from the weather, natural predators, petty criminals, or anti-migration extremists. In some cases, smugglers and ill-intended individuals among asylum seeker groups could also constitute a threat—and in this case, the only way for Frontex agents to discern those individuals would be by cultivating the trust of the asylum seekers it encounters… by extending them protection, rather than treating all of them as threats.
Coordinating anti-trafficking initiatives, to ensure that vulnerable asylum seekers are not subjected to additional abuse, and to dismantle trafficking networks existing within Europe and looking to gain from asylum seeker arrivals.
Coordinating maritime search-and-rescue.
Registering and identifying arrivals, with an eye to supporting community settlement of asylum seekers rather than containment in closed controlled centers.
This is far from a comprehensive list, and it’s 100% aspirational. That being said, I also think it’s more realistic than aspiring for Frontex to be abolished—which, much as I would like to see happen, I don’t think will. The question is whether the EU is now going to prove willing to and capable of reining in an agency that went completely rogue under Mr. Leggeri’s directorship. My expectations are realistic.
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On to the news…
Last Monday, heavy rainfall caused severe flooding in 12 Afghan provinces, killing 29 civilians and damaging or destroying 2.500 homes, displacing an unknown number. On the same day, Uzbek authorities delivered 4.000 tons of food and medial aid to the cross-border town of Hairatan. | On Wednesday, Germany’s Interior Ministry leaked its intention to set a cap of 5.000 further arrivals on its refugee resettlement program for at-risk Afghans, which has thus far received 3.000 Afghans, and admitted another 10.000 who have yet to leave Afghanistan. | On Friday, Pakistani officials ruled out conferring refugee status to increasing numbers of Afghans accumulating in Pakistan to apply for P-1 and P-2 visas, which would allow relocation to the U.S. upon issuance, but whose processing is advancing exceedingly slowly. On the same day, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reported to the U.S. Congress that 24 million Afghans, or 70% of the population, are unable to provide for their basic needs and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. | On Saturday, Taliban leadership announced that women would henceforth be required wear the burka in public, and admonished to step out of their homes only when strictly necessary. | This Monday, TOLOnews relayed concerns from irregular Afghan migrants over a forthcoming cesus by Iranian auhorities, leading to fears the information collected will be used to blacklist them from housing and employment.
Myanmar and its neighbors
Last Monday, Malaysian authorities announced they had detained 30 Rohingya refugees in waters off the island of Pulau Lima, off of mainland Malaysia’s northeast coast, where their vessel had run out of fuel. On the same day, Indian police announced they had detained 24 Rohingya refugees in Tripura state, bordering Bangladesh, but released them upon finding they were registered with UNHCR. | On Tuesday, local resistance units accused the Tatmadaw of detaining 300 civilians for interrogation after suffering an ambush outside of Yangon. On the same day, Fortify Rights blasted Thailand’s treatment of displaced Burmese, releasing a video appearing to show Thai forces destroy a footbridge over the Wa Le river, marking the border between Myanmar and Thailand. | On Wednesday, the FAO released its 2022 Global Report on Food Crises, tallying that 64% of Rohingya are severely food insecure, with this food insecurity leading to a 95% dependency on humanitarian aid among the Rohingya community. | On Thursday, Bangladeshi police detained 450 Rohingya refugees celebrating Eid on a beach near Cox’s Bazaar. On the same day, Bangladeshi authorities defended recent closures of community schools in Rohingya refugee camps, claiming the facilities closed were not schools but training centers that charged students for study, undermining official education programming to turn lessons into a commodity. | On Friday, Thai authorities deported 130 Burmese asylum seekers, at least some of whom had originated in Rakhine State, and intercepted 8 more trying to irregularly enter Thailand. | On Saturday, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah called for 3rd countries to increase Rohingya refugee resettlement from Malaysia. | On Sunday, Malaysian authorities detained 20 Burmese asylum seekers, suspected of having entered Malaysia via irregular means, as well as 1 smuggler.
Sources: TOLOnews, InfoMigrants, VOA, FMT, IANS, Fortify Rights, the Daily Star, AFP, bdnews24, Bangkok Post, Malay Mail.
Ethiopia’s civil war
Last Tuesday, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission lamented increasing difficulties for media workers in Ethiopia, in the form of increasing threats of harassment as well as the imposition of extortionate costs to conduct their business. | On Thursday, UN officials announced that a convoy of 27 trucks bearing 1.000 tons of aid had entered Mekelle, for a total of only 169 trucks bearing 4.300 tons of aid delivered since a ceasefire was proclaimed in early April—far less than what the TPLF expected when it acceded to the ceasefire, or than Tigrayan civilians need to stay alive. | On Friday, the BBC relayed testimonials of a concerted effort to destroy evidence of war crimes in Tigray, including instances of Amharan militias exhuming mass graves to burn and relocate civilian remains, in progress since the UN Human Rigths Council approved the creation of a monitoring body to document human rights abuses in Ethiopia. | On Sunday, the Eritrean Press Agency reported that the TPLF had demanded international support restraining Eritrea from intervening in a supposed intended assault to recover Western Tigray from occupying Amharan forces. On the same day, UN-OCHA appealed for urgent deliveries of seed, fertilizer, and pesticides to embattled areas of Tigray and Amhara states ahead of the June-September rainy season, where ~85% of Ethiopia’s staple crops are planted.
Conflict and displacement in the Sahel, displacement and cross-border mobility in East Africa
Last Wednesday, UNHCR disclosed that, amid increasing regional conflict, there have been 36.000 refugee arrivals to Niger from Nigeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso since the beginning of the year. | On Saturday, novel fighting broke out in the Tshilenge district of Kasai-Oriental region in the DRC, displacing several thousand civilians. | This Monday, Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics issued its Economic Survey 2022, documenting a doubling in commerce between Kenya in Tanzania as a result of bilateral relaxations in trade and in cross-border labor mobility.
Sources: Addis Standard, UN News, BBC, IANS, UNHCR, HumAngle, the EastAfrican.
Middle East and North Africa
Displacement in the Levant and Arabian Peninsula
Last Monday, ~3.000 Yazidi civilians were displaced from the Sinjar district on the heels of fighting between Iraqi security forces and local YBS militias, as Iraqi forces, invited by Erbil to restore Iraqi state presence in Sinjar, met resistance when trying to dismantle YBS checkpoints. | On Thursday, Syria Relief pleaded for international donors to supplant the funding it lost as a result of UK authorities’ 2021 foreign aid reductions, lamenting that 40.000 children in Syria stood to lose access to its 133 schools, amid a range of services affected by a 69% reduction in UK aid financing to Syria. | On Friday, Middle East Eye disclosed increasing abuses against mainly Ethiopian and Yemeni migrant detainees in Saudi Arabia, whose numbers have grown dramatically since a repatriation agreement offered Saudi authorities an excuse to expand a dragnet apprehending Ethiopian nationals and keeping them in pre-removal detention.
Asylum seeker (im)mobility in Turkey and North Africa
Last Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a plan intended to relocate ~1 million Syrian refugees to Turkish-controlled areas in northern Syria, and to develop infrastructure to support such large-scale returns. | On Thursday, 128 Nigerian asylum seekers were repatriated from Libya, under IOM facilitation. | On Friday, Moroccan authorities disclosed they had intercepted just under 14.250 asylum seekers at sea over the previous year, and had already intercepted another 97 thus far this year. | On Sunday, Tunisian authorities tallied 25.000 border crossings from Libya in the 3 days following Eid, attributing the sudden increase to the accumulation of mobility needs over the course of Ramadan. On the same day, Turkish authorities tallied just over ~4.080.000 refugees living in Turkey, including just over 3.762.500 Syrians holding temporary residency permits.
Sources: AP, the Guardian, Middle East Eye, InfoMigrants, the Libya Observer, EFE, Hürriyet.
Maritime Migration Routes to & through the West
Atlantic routes—to the Great Britain and the Canaries
Last Monday, 293 asylum seekers reached UK soil on 9 vessels, contributing to over 500 arrivals in just 3 days after an 11-day lull misleadingly attributed to the announcement of the UK-Rwanda relocation deal. | On Friday, 116 asylum seekers reached UK soil in 4 vessels across the English Channel. On the same day, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 118 asylum seekers from a vessel in waters off of Gran Canaria. | On Saturday, UK authorities rescued 169 asylum seekers from 11 vessels in the English Channel, disembarking them in Dover. | On Sunday, at least 44 asylum seekers drowned after their vessel capsized in waters off of Cape Boudjour, with another 12 survivors apprehended and 7 lifeless bodies retrieved by the Moroccan Coast Guard.
Central and western Mediterranean
Last Monday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 29 asylum seekers from a vessel that had stalled ~7 miles southeast of Tarifa. | On Tuesday, the GeoBarents disembarked the 101 asylum seekers it had rescued in the Sicilian port of Augusta. | On Wednesday, IOM disclosed that 246 asylum seekers had been intercepted by Libyan Coast Guard vessels and forcibly returned to Libya over the week prior. | On Thursday, a Turkish vessel intercepted 17 asylum seekers in waters off of Misrata, returning them to Libya for likely detention and abuse. | On Friday, Italian Coast Guard officers rescued 108 asylum seekers, and retrieved 2 lifeless bodies, from a sailboat that reached the coast of Calabria autonomously and then ran aground and tipped over near a jetty. On the same day, 34 asylum seekers sent a distress signal from a vessel in rough waters in the Maltese search-and-rescue zone, neglected by authorities though shadowed by a cargo ship unable to effect a rescue. | On Saturday, Libyan Coast Guard vessels rescued 20 asylum seekers from punctured vessel sinking off the coast of Zuwara. | On Sunday, the SeaEye 4 facilitated the rescue of 34 asylum seekers who remained adrift in the Maltese SAR zone, coordinating the support of 2 passing container ships in the absence of official EU or state assistance, as the Sea-Watch 4 rescued another 88 asylum seekers in a separate operation. | This Monday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 13 asylum seekers and tallied 28 missing persons from a vessel in waters off of the Canary Islands.
Gulf of Mexico
Last Thursday, 4 Cuban asylum seekers arrived autonomously in the Florida Keys, where they were apprehended by U.S. authorities for likely repatriation to Cuba. | This Monday, authorities announced, over the weekend, they had intercepted 6 vessels carrying 58 asylum seekers toward Florida.
Last Friday, a group of 18 asylum seekers contacted Alarm Phone claiming they had reached Greek waters and were approaching the coast of Lesvos when they were pushed back into Turkish waters and deposited into unnavigable life rafts, from which they were eventually rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard. | On Saturday, Greek authorities located 106 asylum seekers on a half-sunk vessel in shallow waters off the shore of Kos, transferring them to the island’s Reception and Identification Center.
Sources: BBC, Simon Jones, EFE, KentOnline, AFP, InfoMigrants, the Libya Observer, Europa Press, the Times of Malta, Local10, Alarm Phone, KeepTalkingGreece.
Displacement within and beyond Ukraine
Last Monday, legal advocates revealed they are preparing a collective lawsuit against the Home Office on behalf of Ukrainian refugees unable to access UK soil under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, alleging that less than 12.000 out of nearly 75.000 applicants for the scheme have managed to reach the UK—despite 59.000 visas having been approved—with a significant proportion of successful applicants not having been notified of visa issuance. | On Wednesday, 344 civilians were able to evacuate from Mariupol and reach safety in Zaporizhzhia. | On Thursday, German authorities announced they had received just over 610.000 refugees from Ukraine since the outbreak of hostilities on February 24, ~ 1.5% of whom were third-country nationals residing in Ukraine. | On Friday, Human Rights Watch issued a report beseeching Ukrainian authorities to release asylum seekers in detention in containment centers in Mykolaiv and Zhuravychi, detailing how detainees in yet another center in Chernihiv were released when hostilities broke out, but that those of these other centers were only offered release if they joined the war effort. | On Saturday, Ukrainian authorities confirmed that all civilians had been evacuated from the besieged Azovstal complex in Mariupol, leaving only military personnel in the interior of the plant. On the same day, inews issued a report identifying 66 relocation camps across Russia holding an estimated 6.025 Ukrainian nationals, removed from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine and into the Russian interior likely under duress. | On Sunday, the Observer revealed that UK authorities were scrambling to find appropriate accommodation to 600 Ukrainian refugees who had arrived to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, but whose intended hosts were deemed unsuitable pursuant to background checks. | This Monday, just over 170 civilians reached Zaporizhzhia after being evacuated from Mariupol 2 days prior, including 51 civilians who had been hiding in the Azovstal plant, and the remainder from other parts of the city.
European migration policymaking
Last Tuesday, advocates lodged the first legal challenge against the UK-Rwanda refugee relocation deal, on behalf of an Iranian asylum seeker claiming his integration prospects in Rwanda would be null—prompting the Home Office to back down from relocating him but leaving questions as to how relocation selections are conducted. | On Wednesday, the European Parliament further delayed approving Frontex’s budget, demanding to see the findings of a longstanding investigation by the EU anti-fraud agency before voting on the Frontex budget. | On Thursday, Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson noted to the EU Parliament that she was awaiting reply from Polish authorities to a Commission inquiry as to the environmental impact of the border fence being built through the primal forest of Białowieża, amid accusations from a broad range of parties that the Commission had failed to step up in defense of Europe’s natural environment and of sound migration policy. | On Friday, Médecins sans Frontières demanded that Lithuanian authorities release 2.500 asylum seekers held in detention for the last 9 months since they attempted to enter EU soil from Belarus. | This Monday, Spanish police commander for the Canary Islands Rafael Martínez stated his belief that irregular migration and criminality are separate and distinct phenomena, and that the former does not contribute to the latter.
Med5 migration (mis)management
Last Tuesday, the Greek Refugee Council, Oxfam, and Save the Children issued a report deploring Greece’s 2-tier refugee system, that has deployed services and support of Ukrainian arrivals virtually overnight, that asylum seekers from other countries still struggle to access despite years of advocacy (see the full report here). | On Thursday, a Greek court sentenced 3 asylum seekers who survived a deadly shipwreck to then be questionably accused of migrant smuggling, to sentences between 126 and 187 years’ imprisonment.
Sources: the Guardian, Deutsche-Welle, Human Rights Watch, inews, euobserver, MSF, EFE, InfoMigrants, borderline-europe.
U.S. migration policymaking
Last Tuesday, the AP relayed demands by Ukrainian refugees and advocates for faster processing under the Uniting with Ukraine scheme, which allows displaced Ukrainians to apply for resettlement from abroad, as Ukrainians arriving in Mexico, no longer exempt from Title 42, accumulate in a temporary camp in Mexico City. | On Wednesday, CNN reported that the Biden Administration has included an Afghan Adjustment Act in a recent budget proposal, which would allow Afghan evacuees with humanitarian parole or temporary protected status, 1 year after their arrival to the U.S., to apply for permanent residency. | On Friday, the U.S, Border Patrol terminated several shadowy units conducting internal investigations without official authority and suspected of systematically covering up misconduct by Border Patrol agents.
Irregular migration in Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean
Last Tuesday, the Observatorio Consular y Migratorio de Honduras revealed that just over 35.500 asylum seekers have been returned to Honduras thus far this year, mainly from the U.S. and Mexico. | On Wednesday, Mexican authorities identified 275 asylum seekers, including 67 children, found in a truck trailer that had been abandoned by smugglers in the state of Veracruz. | On Friday, Mexican authorities disclosed they had received just over 40.000 asylum claims in the first 4 months of this year, a 27% increase from the same period in 2021, when over the whole year Mexico received a record ~131.500 asylum claims. | On Saturday, a caravan of 47 Central American mothers of missing asylum seekers reached Mexico City, to demonstrate in front of the Zócalo palace and demand information on the whereabouts of their sons—or of their remains. | On Sunday, Mexican authorities announced they would open Mexico’s population registry to nationals of Guatemala and Belize, allowing them to perform cross-border work under regular contracts and access benefits entitled to them by virtue of their payroll tax contributions. On the same day, authorities detained just over 1.600 asylum seeers from 38 countries across Mexico, as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was overseas discussing migration management with his regional counterparts. Also on Sunday, the U.S. Congressional Research Service released findings tallying that, from 2013 to the present day, Mexican authorities have granted asylum to ~76.800 out of ~341.800 asylum seekers, for a recognition rate of ~22%, all while leaving ~224.475 asylum claims unexamined.
Migration and its drivers in South America
Last Wednesday, U.S. authorities announced a $6 million aid package for Venezuelan refugees living in Chile. On the same day, Colombian authorities announced the launch of a $15.8 million plan to provide healthcare to displaced Venezuelans, funded mainly by Spain and the EU. | On Friday, Venezuelan authorities claimd that 340.000 displaced Venezuelans had returned to their home country in recent months under the Vuelta a la Patria plan. | This Monday, El País released a poll suggesting that 52.5% of Colombians oppose the status regularization of displaced Venezuelans in Colombia, with only 42.4% supporting Colombian authorities’ reception and integration efforts.
Sources: AP, CNN, San Diego Union-Tribune, EFE, Deutsche-Welle, Border Report, La Jornada, infobae, El Economista, el mostrador, infobae, Prensa Latina, El País.
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