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Executive Summary for March 21st

We review the latest developments on refugee issues, including continuing arrivals to Greece amid a shaky refugee deal with Turkey, Indonesia’s hope to resettle asylum seekers in Australia and the thousands of asylum seekers still stranded in Calais, France.

Published on March 21, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Amid E.U.-Turkey Deal, Refugees Continue to Enter Greece

While the European Union-Turkey deal that proposes a one-in-one-out approach, came into effect over the weekend, at least 875 people entered Greece according to latest media reports. The current version of the deal will see mass returns of Syrian asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey in exchange for resettling Syrians from Turkish camps in the E.U.

But Greece is in dire need of emergency aid and support to cope with the numbers of arrivals.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has called for a strengthening of Greece’s “reception conditions and its systems for assessing asylum claims and dealing with people accepted as refugees” as integral steps of any deal.

According to a BBC report, the returns to Turkey are unlikely to start before April 4.

Indonesia: ‘Australia Must Take in More Refugees’

Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi will meet her Australian counterpart in the hope that the country will be more “receptive to migrants who have been waiting for resettlement,” she said to reporters ahead of a regional forum on people smuggling, according the Sydney Morning Herald.

At least 13,000 people have been awaiting resettlement for the past several years, Marsud admitted, while insisting that the country is not equipped to integrate large numbers of “migrants.”

Not party to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, Indonesia does not offer legal rights to asylum seekers, nor does it formally recognize refugees as defined by the convention. But, the government appears intent on curbing human smuggling and trafficking networks that have increased in recent years, taking advantage of the continuing plight of the Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Thai and Indonesian authorities have indefinitely detained Rohingya entering the country, according to recent reports by The Nation and other outlets.

On the other hand, Australia also has a mandatory detention policy, by which all migrants – including asylum seekers who enter the country by “irregular” means – are arrested and indefinitely detained.

In recent years, Australia outsourced detention of refugees to neighboring Asia-Pacific countries and operates prison-like detention centers on its own islands, according to several media reports.

But, Australia, which has also resettled the largest number of asylum seekers in Indonesia, remains the main source of hope in the region for Marsudi.

Despite Demolitions, Thousands Remain at Calais ‘Jungle’

Following recent French government-led demolitions of makeshift camps housing refugees at Calais, France, at least 4,000 people remain on the premises, according to reports by Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres – MSF).

The “Calais Jungle” is the popular name for the large encampment with mixed migrant groups, close to the French port of Calais that shares a border with the United Kingdom. Over the past decades, asylum seekers – a majority from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan – have squatted in this area while awaiting entry to the United Kingdom. By September 2015, when arrivals reached 2,000 per month, the U.K. border authorities had “reinforced its border controls” said the International Business Times (IBT).

The recent demolitions have forced people to move to other parts of the camp, making conditions even “more crowded,” added MSF, which has been maintaining a presence in the camp to monitor the “volatile” situation.

While French authorities have asked families whose homes were demolished to move to the “Temporary Reception Centre” at Calais, there are only 1,900 available spaces in total.

Recommended Reads:

Top image: Two policemen guard the entrance of the “eviction area” at Calais. An activist holds a sign showing the refugee population of that particular encampment, which is a part of the “Calais Jungle.” (Refugees Deeply/Michael Bunel)

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