By Kristy Siegfried | 2 September, 2019
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Greece sets out emergency plans in response to surge in boat arrivals. The Greek government at the weekend announced emergency measures to deal with a sharp increase in arrivals of asylum-seekers and migrants on the Greek islands. August saw the highest number of arrivals in three years, while close to 650 people, including 240 children, landed in a matter of hours on the Aegean island of Lesvos last Thursday. After an emergency session on Saturday, the government’s Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence said it would begin moving some 1,500 asylum-seekers from the overcrowded Moria reception centre on Lesvos to mainland facilities today and would work with the EU and NATO to step up border patrols. It also announced plans to shorten the asylum process by abolishing the appeals process when asylum applications are rejected and to increase returns of rejected applicants to Turkey or their country of origin. Reuters reports that some 635 people, mostly families, boarded a passenger ship in Lesvos today that was headed for northern Greece. More people are due to leave later in the day.
UNHCR urges India to ensure no one is left stateless by citizenship check. Following the publication on Saturday of a list of citizens in India’s north-eastern Assam state that excluded nearly two million people, the UN refugee agency expressed concern about their risk of becoming stateless. “Any process that could leave large numbers of people without a nationality would be an enormous blow to global efforts to eradicate statelessness,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. The list, known as the National Register of Citizens, was compiled during a four-year process in which all of Assam’s 33 million residents were required to present documentary evidence that they or their relatives had been living in the state since before March 1971. Responding to UNHCR’s concerns, the government said on Sunday that those excluded from the list would not be detained and would continue to enjoy the same rights while they appealed for inclusion before “foreigners’ tribunals”. Al Jazeera reports that those excluded from the list have 120 days to prove their citizenship at hundreds of regional tribunals.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
Refugees ordered to leave temporary shelter in Jakarta. More than 1,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Indonesia had until Sunday to move out of a shelter in Kalideres, West Jakarta, where they have been staying since mid-July. Previously, many of them had been camping on the pavement across from UNHCR’s offices in Central Jakarta. The Jakarta Post reports that city officials said they could no longer provide aid to the refugees. Several hundred people remained in the shelter on Saturday, with some telling the Jakarta Post they had no idea where they would go. UNHCR said it was providing emergency support to the most vulnerable refugees in Kalideres, but that longer term solutions were needed that would allow refugees in Indonesia to support themselves.
Ceasefire comes into force in Syria’s Idlib. Air raids targeting opposition-held areas of Syria’s north-western Idlib province stopped early on Saturday after the government agreed to a Moscow-backed ceasefire . The announcement of the ceasefire on Friday came a day after the UN expressed grave concern about the escalation of hostilities in the region, which has caused more than 400,000 people to be displaced since early May, many of them multiple times. UN relief chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council on Thursday that satellite imagery showed entire towns and villages “razed to the ground”, with many people fleeing northwards towards the Turkish border. A previous ceasefire on 5 August collapsed after three days.
No-deal Brexit could mean end to family reunion for refugee children. The Guardian reports that the UK Home Office is preparing to end the current system of family reunification for asylum-seeking children if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal. A no-deal Brexit would mean no new applications being accepted after 1 November from asylum-seeking children hoping to reunite with relatives in the UK under the Dublin system. Lawyers and campaigners said they were trying to process as many claims as possible in the next two months. A UNHCR spokesperson told The Guardian a no-deal Brexit would mean that the Dublin Regulation, which allows for the transfer of asylum-seeking children and adults within the EU to join family members, will no longer apply in the UK.
Venezuelan asylum-seekers find new home in Spanish capital. Der Spiegel reports that Madrid has become the main destination for Venezuelan asylum-seekers who can afford to fly to Europe. Spain is currently processing record numbers of asylum applications, with 23,000 new applications registered by Venezuelans in the first seven months of this year – double the number during the same period last year. To reduce pressure on the asylum system, the government recently began offering humanitarian status to Venezuelan asylum-seekers not considered eligible for refugee status. The humanitarian status allows them to stay and work in the country for a year, after which it can be extended. While some Venezuelans arrive with enough money to buy apartments in Madrid’s wealthy central districts, many others must begin their new lives almost from scratch, having sold everything to afford the ticket to Spain.
ReBicycle, a local charity in Wellington, New Zealand, donates second-hand bicycles to refugees and offers lessons to those who never learned to ride back home. The Guardian reports that the initiative has been such a hit that the charity is urgently looking for more volunteers to give lessons.
DID YOU KNOW?
Nearly half of the 56,700 refugees and migrants arriving in Europe so far this year have come through the Greek islands.