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Executive Summary for March 31st

We review the latest developments on refugee issues, including European plans to send back 80,000 Afghan asylum seekers and refugees, claims of Turkish border guards killing Syrian refugees and NGOs expressing disappointment over the latest Geneva conference.

Published on March 31, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Europe to Return 80,000 Afghan Asylum Seekers and Refugees

While coping with the pressures of resettling Syrian refugees, the E.U. “has drafted confidential plans to send 80,000 Afghan asylum seekers and refugees back to the war-torn country,” according to Australian broadcaster, ABC.

The government of Afghanistan said that they will not be able to afford protection to such a large number of returnees, given highly unstable conditions in parts of the country.

“Most of the Afghans leave the country because of the insecurity, some districts is (sic) under the control of the Taliban, also Taliban and Daesh fighting against the Afghan police,” said Hafiz Ahmad Miakhel, spokesperson for Afghanistan’s Refugee and Repatriation Ministry.

Latest U.N. figures show an increase in the number of Afghans attempting to enter Europe due to the worsening political, security and economic situation in Afghanistan, and because of individual cases of persecution in their home communities.

Macedonia has kept its border to Greece closed partially to keep out Afghan refugees, who constituted 25 percent of arrivals in Greece over February of this year.

Afghanistan is deemed a “post-conflict” country by Western states, who often use the status as a reason to turn away asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, U.N. envoy for Afghanistan Mark Bowden said “Afghanistan suffers one of the highest levels of civilian casualties, car bombs and IEDs.”

Due to the focus on resettling Syrian refugees, Afghanistan’s domestic turbulence has not received as much attention in recent months, according to the same ABC report.

Turkish Troops Accused of Killing Syrian Refugees Crossing Borders

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that Turkish border guards have killed 16 Syrians, including 3 children, over the past months as they attempted to cross into Turkey, according to British media reports.

Accusations of brutal crackdowns by the Turkish government have coincided with the latest E.U.-Turkey deal that involves mass returns of Syrian refugees from Greece to Turkey in exchange for resettling those at refugee camps in Turkey.

The Turkish government has claimed that it continues to maintain open borders.

According to a report by the Times, smugglers assert that refugees have continued to cross borders but are now under increased risk of being shot at by Turkish police.

The reports cast further doubt on the viability of Turkey as a safe third-party country for Syrian refugees under the current terms of the E.U.-Turkey deal.

NGOs at the Geneva Conference Criticize Failure to Resettle Syrians

Oxfam, Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council criticized the limited pledges that countries attending the Geneva conference on resettlement made on Wednesday.

The group of NGOs cited a “deeply disappointing outcome of today’s international pledging conference for resettlement of refugees fleeing the ongoing crisis in Syria,” as a collective reaction to the event.

While conference host the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) hoped for at least 480,000 places for Syrians, participating countries increased their commitments toward resettlement and humanitarian admissions by a mere 6,000 places to reach a total of 185,000, according to the agency’s head, Filippo Grandi.

“Many rich countries seem more preoccupied with keeping Syrians out, or using them as bargaining chips in political deals, instead of offering the most vulnerable a safe haven,” said Andy Baker, head of Oxfam’s response to the Syria crisis.

“The collapse of international solidarity witnessed in Geneva undermines half a century of efforts to build international refugee law,” added Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Meanwhile the Italian interior ministry reported a 60 percent increase in the number of refugees reaching Italy through March than during the same period in 2015.

“Migrant flows from sub-Saharan Africa across the Mediterranean are picking up too, and Italy’s coast guard and navy vessels rescued 1,361 from boats and rubber dinghies on Wednesday,” according to Reuters.

Recommended Reads

Top image: An Afghan child migrant carries his food as other people wait in line to receive food distributed by a non-governmental organization at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, where around 5,000 refugees and migrants are temporarily hosted. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

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