November 8-15, 2021 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.
With the Polish-Belarussian border on fire, there is already quite it a bit of commentary out there denouncing a hybrid attack carried out by Minsk and orchestrated by Moscow—with even sympathetic writers characterizing asylum seekers as weapons, or ammunition, in this asymmetric attack.
If our debate reduces to whether asylum seekers are deliberate or unwitting participants in a supposed attack on Europe, then we are asking the wrong question and need to go back to the basics. Helpfully, the European Center on Countering Hybrid Threats published, early this year, an excellent report on the subject, setting definitions and conceptualizing its scope. Its 58 pages are well worth your time. As far as this week’s events are concerned, the tl;dr is in the quote below:
So the question remains: What turns an action into Hybrid Threats? Ostensibly, it is when a hostile actor deliberately combines and synchronizes action, specifically targeting the systemic vulnerabilities in democratic societies in ways that have roots in tactics with which authoritarian states, revisionist powers, rogue states and non-state networks that are seeking to undermine democratic state system have been trying to maintain their power, exert control and weaken opponents.
EU migration policy making—and as a result European migration policy—are broken. This brokenness allows states at Europe’s periphery to manipulate the EU and its member states, as numerous authors have argued convincingly, this week and in prior occasions. In this particular hybrid attack, the weapon is not the asylum seeker at the EU’s external border, but rather member states’ disregard for European asylum law. In this particular hybrid attack, the ammunition are not asylum seekers’ attempts to cross the EU’s external borders, but rather the discord sown across EU institutions and member states by the ferrying of a few thousand asylum seekers to those very borders.
Referring to asylum seekers as weapons or threats is problematic at an ontological level: it dehumanizes them in public discussions and reduces their standing in policymaking and policy implementation. But it is also problematic, in a more direct way, at a policymaking level. The present threat is the fragility of Europe’s policies and the incapacity of Europe’s agencies to deal with deviations from the norm at EU external borders with anything short of a Leviathan donning riot gear. It is in the form of security forces at the border by the thousand—and not that of asylum seekers—that this hybrid attack manifests. And it is in our power to counter this threat differently, preserving our humanity and our values and denying Moscow and Minsk the propaganda coup they seek.
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Post-occupation Afghanistan and its neighbors
Last Wednesday, NRC disclosed that 4.000-5.000 Afghan asylum seekers are entering Turkey from Iran every day, lamenting insufficient international support for displaced Afghans or for first reception countries. On the same day, Afghan business lamented that business has declined by 90% in the national quarrying and stone extraction industry, amid a collapse in demand and shortages of fuel and raw materials with which to work. | On Thursday, IOM revealed that Iran has deported nearly 1.032.000 displaced Afghans back to Afghanistan thus far this year, including 28.000 in the last week of October alone. | This Monday, WHO officials revealed that they had detected 87 measles cases in Afghanistan this year, sounding the alarm over an ongoing outbreak they lack measures to contain.
Conflict and displacement in Myanmar
Last Tuesday, Arakan Army fighters fought Tatmadaw troops near Maungdaw, in the first violent clashes in Rakhine State since November 2020. | On Wednesday, the UN Security Council expressed its deep concern as to escalating violence in Myanmar, on the heels of OCHA disclosing that 37.000 civilians have been displaced in recent weeks in Chin State and Kayah State. | On Friday, Tatmadaw raids targeted 20 villages in the central region of Sagaing, displacing about 30.000 civilians.
Thailand and its neighbors
Last Tuesday, Thai authorities repatriated 2 Cambodian refugees, overruling UNHCR’s intervention and dismissing the risks they faced upon return as a result of their past political activity. | On Wednesday, Thailand announced it would set aside 500.000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate foreign workers it intends to reinvite into the country to alleviate labor shortages.
Sources: Reuters, TOLOnews, al Jazeera, the Irawaddy, Human Rights Watch.
Displacement in the Great Lakes area and Nigeria
Last Monday, fighting between the M23 rebel group and Congolese military in the Rutshuru area displaced hundreds of civilians into Uganda. | On Sunday, local authorities announced the opening of a returning migrant and IDP reintegration camp in Lagos State, supported by IOM and the EU, with capacity for 400 residents.
Ethiopia’s civil war
Last Tuesday, Ethiopian authorities detained 16 local staff working for the UN, all ethnic Tigrayans, accusing them of participating in terrorist activities. On the same day, Sudanese authorities announced they had approved the opening of 2 new refugee camps in Qadarif, near the Ethiopian border, expecting ~500.000 new arrivals as fighting in Ethiopia conflict intensifies. | On Wednesday, Amnesty International released a report documenting severe human rights abuses committed by Tigrayan occupying parts of Amhara state, including sexual assault against at least 70 women, looting, and physical violence against civilians (see the full report here). On the same day, news media revealed that Ethiopian authorities had detained 72 truck drivers, all Tigrayans, employed by WFP in Afar, and had also detained hundreds of high-profile Tigrayans across Ethiopia, including a group of 37 priests. | On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti announced his government may be willing to accede to cease-fire talks if the TPLF withdrew from conquered Amharan and Afari territory, ceased attacks, and recognized the legitimacy of Ethiopia’s current government, as an unnamed official admonished landlords they had one week to inform police of the identity of their tenants to facilitate presumed security operations. | On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Eritrean officials believed to be facilitating undisclosed military activity in Tigray.
Sources: AP, ICIR, Middle East Monitor, Reuters, al Jazeera, Deutsche-Welle.
Middle East and North Africa
Yemen’s civil war
Last Tuesday, U.S. officials announced that 25 local staff working for the U.S. Embassy and for USAID in Sana’a had been detained by Ansar Allah over the past 3 weeks. | On Friday, Coalition forces announced they had withdrawn from positions around the Ansar Allah-held port of Hodeidah, breaking a partial siege of 3 years on Yemen’s largest port. | On Sunday, local authorities announced they had opened 16 new camps to accommodate nearly 94.000 civilians newly displaced from the fighting around Marib.
Israeli resettlement of Ethiopian Jews
Last Monday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed recriminated his counterpart Naftali Bennett, charging that an Israeli program resettling Ethiopian Jews, which has airlifted 2.000 people so far, has enabled alleged 4 war criminals to flee Ethiopia—leading to the suspension of the transfer of 800 more eligible evacuees. | On Tuesday, Israeli authorities announced that they would be willing to deport any evacuated Ethiopians credibly found to have committed war crimes from among the 7.000-12.000 Jews remaining in Ethiopia and potentially eligible for relocation.
Syrian refugee livelihoods and lives
Last Wednesday, the Syrian municipality of Ras Balbeek published a circular capping daily wages for Syrian refugees at 40.000 lira for men and 10.000 lira for women, limiting their work hours limited to 8:00-15:00, and imposing a 19:00-6:00 curfew for Syrian refugees. On the same day, Russian jets bombed a chicken farm in Marraat Misrin, an area inhabited by IDPs in Idlib, killing 5 civilians, all members of a single family displaced from Aleppo, and wounding 6 more.
Politics and violence in Libya and Sudan
Last Friday, Libyan authorities made a tenuous commitment before delegates of an international conference in Paris to hold elections by December 24 of this year. | On Saturday, peaceful protesters took to the street across Sudan, drawing tear gas and live fire from security forces who killed at least 5 protesters and injured at least a dozen more.
Sources: Middle East Eye, Reuters, Asharq al-Aswat, TOI, L’Orient Today, Politico, the Guardian.
Maritime Migration Routes to & through Europe
The English Channel
Last Tuesday, nearly 700 asylum seekers reached the UK autonomously or were rescued in the Channel and brought to UK soil, as French authorities prevented just over 250 further departures. | On Thursday, nearly 1.200 asylum seekers reached the UK or were rescued in the Channel, with another 3 suspected to have gone missing, as mild weather and the approach of winter drove a record number of crossing attempts.
Last Tuesday, Greek authorities released a video showing an asylum seeker craft, blocked by Greek Coast Guard ships at the maritime border between Lesvos and Turkey, being blocked in turn by Turkish Coast Guard ships from returning into Turkish waters, remaining stranded in a sort of maritime buffer zone until eventually rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard, amid accusations from Greek authorities that Turkey behaves like a pirate state.
Last Wednesday, the Italian Coast Guard rescued ~400 asylum seekers from a fishing boat that had ran aground near Pozallo, as authorities issued permission for the Ocean Viking to dock in Augusta and disembark 306 asylum seekers on board in Sicily. | On Sunday, the Italian Coast Guard rescued ~550 asylum seekers from 2 craft in distress in stormy waters off the coast of Calabria. | On Monday, Moroccan police completed several days of maritime SAR operations that retrieved 331 asylum seekers from multiple craft in Atlantic and Mediterranean waters.
Last Wednesday, Salvamento Marítimo and the Spanish Civil Guard rescued 104 asylum seekers from 2 craft in waters off of Lanzarote. On the same day, Spanish prosecutors demanded 32 years’ imprisonment for the pilot of a craft that drifted for 2 weeks in waters south of Gran Canaria in October 2020, before being rescued by a cargo ship, after 16 of the 26 asylum seekers had perished. | On Friday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 44 asylum seekers from a stricken craft in waters off of Lanzarote in the early morning. On the same day, Salvamento Marítimo rescued another 49 asylum seekers in response to their distress call in waters off of Lanzarote. | On Saturday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued 209 asylum seekers, and guided another 33 to shore, in 5 rescues in waters off the Canary Islands. On the same day, Salvamento Marítimo rescued another 62 asylum seekers and retrieved 6 lifeless bodies from another craft about 65 kilometers south of Gran Canaria. | On Sunday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued a group of 41 asylum seekers from a distressed craft in waters off of Lanzarote. | This Monday, Salvamento Marítimo rescued another 40 asylum seekers, and retrieved 2 lifeless bodies, from a craft drifting 200 kilometers off of the Canary Islands.
Sources: BBC, InfoMigrants, AP, EFE, Reuters.
Baltics border brinksmanship
Last Monday, European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced the Commission was considering sanctions against Belarussian officials and blacklists of third-country airlines facilitating irregular migration via Belarus into Europe. | Tuesday, news media disclosed that Poland has deployed 20.000 troops along its border with Belarus to prevent irregular arrivals between official border crossings. | On Wednesday, a 14-year old child perished in hospital of hypothermia contracted while encamped at the Belarus-Poland border. On the same day, EU Council President Charles Michel announced that the Council’s legal service had determined EU funding could be used to fund border barrier construction without breaking European law. | On Thursday, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenka threatened to cut off the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which supplies natural gas extracted in Russia to Europe, in retaliation to any new sanctions driven by the ongoing migration crisis. | On Friday, EU officials announced that Turkish authorities and Belarussian airline Belavia have banned nationals of Iraq, Syria, and Yemen from boarding flights to Minsk, as the WHO estimates that 60% of asylum seekers currently encamped at the Belarussian-Polish border are in urgent need of medical assistance. | On Saturday, Polish police found the lifeless body of a Syrian asylum seeker, believed to be the 9th fatality along the border with Belarus, near the village of. | On Sunday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki revealed he and his Lithuanian and Latvian counterparts are considering invoking Article 4 of the NATO Treaty, providing for consultations with treaty allies, as border police disclosed that a group of ~50 asylum seekers had broken through the border near the village of Starzyna, where they were intercepted and returned to the border. | On Sunday, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell announced that the EU Council would meet this Monday to put in place a legal framework for broader sanctions, targeting tour operators and other companies facilitating transit to Belarus while also expanding the list of Belarussian officials to be sanctioned.
Med5 migration (mis)management
Last Wednesday, Cypriot authorities announced they would request authorization from the European Commission to crack down on irregular arrivals, possibly including the right to suspend the right to asylum for irregular entrants, disclosing that over 9.000 of the nearly 10.870 asylum seekers who have arrived in the Republic of Cyprus thus far this year arrived via northern Cyprus and across the Green Line. On the same day, 2 Italian unions warned that conditions have become dire in the San Fernandino tent city, hosting seasonal workers in Reggio Calabria, urging local authorities to provide security and services. Also on Wednesday, a multinational police operation led by Spain detained just under 1.000 asylum seekers and 7 smugglers in 8 cities across Serbia. | On Thursday, 14 unaccompanied minors living in Greece were relocated to Portugal, contributing to a total 1.063 now having accessed meaningful protection via relocation to other EU countries. | On Friday, 63 refugees from the Horn of Africa living in camps in Ethiopia arrived in Italy, through a humanitarian corridor facilitated by Italian secular and confessional authorities.
UK politics and the Home Office being UK politics and the Home Office
Last Friday, news media revealed that the Home Office has hosted 600 unaccompanied asylum seeking minors in hotels this year, despite risks to their well-being and potential breaches of relevant law, further revealing that an undisclosed number of minors has absconded from these hotels and remain unaccounted for. | On Sunday, news media revealed that the PCS union, which represents Border Force guards, is considering suing the home office to challenge a contested plan to turn back asylum seekers at sea, fearing liability for their acts and confident that the home office could not parry a legal challenge.
Irregular migration into Germany
Last Saturday, German police identified 16 asylum seekers, 11 of whom were minors, who had managed to board the container of a transport truck until the driver heard unusual noises coming from the trailer and alerted authorities.
Sources: InfoMigrants, the Guardian, Politico, ANSA, Ekathimerini, BBC.
U.S. migration policymaking
Last Monday, DHS announced it would waive the fees for Afghan evacuees in the U.S. under humanitarian parole, rather than refugee status, and applying for work permits as advocates demanded a further waiver of the $575 application fee to obtain humanitarian parole in the first place. | On Thursday, DHS revealed that apprehensions of Haitian asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border decreased from over 17.500 in September to ~1.000 in October, attributing the change to the Biden Administration’s expanded repatriation of irregular entrants.
Irregular migration through Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean
Last Monday, IOM urged Panamanian authorities to prevent irregular migration through the Darién Gap. | On Wednesday, 12 Honduran asylum seekers died of burns as a result of a traffic accident in southern Mexico, as another 3 survived the accident but sustained wounds and burns on 60% of their bodies. | On Thursday, Mexican authorities announced that they had issued humanitarian visas to ~800 participants in the ongoing caravan, which has reduced its numbers to about 1.000 as it progresses into Oaxaca.
Irregular migration and its drivers in South America
Last Monday, Colombian authorities formally unveiled the Temporary Protection Permit to be issued henceforth to displaced Venezuelans, and which will grant access to Colombia’s labor market, education system, social security, and banking system. On Tuesday, advocates deplored Colombian authorities’ increasing reliance on express expulsions, bypassing the formal deportation process and limiting access to due process, to remove Venezuelan nationals from Colombian soil. On the same day, Proyecto Migración Venezuela released a report finding that just over 40% of Venezuelans in Colombia work more than 48 hours per week, as opposed to 25% of Colombians, and that almost all Venezuelans lack accreditation of the educational levels in Colombia, limiting their access to the labor market (see the full report here).
Sources: Business Insider, the Washington Post, teleSUR, AP, la Opinión, Deutsche-Welle, infobae.