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Executive Summary for April 14th

We review the latest developments, including asylum seekers “forcing” their way through the Panama border into Costa Rica, the claim that arrivals on the Greek islands face “arbitrary detention” and a UNHCR call for the internally displaced to take part in peace talks in Colombia.

Published on April 14, 2016 Read time Approx. 4 minutes

Migrants and Asylum Seekers Enter Costa Rica Through Panama

Costa Rica reported that 1,200 migrants and asylum seekers entered the country on April 13 from Panama, while alleging that some attacked a government immigration office at the border.

Costa Rican security minister Gustavo Mata said to AP that “migrants” from Cuba and unspecified African nations “forced their way into Costa Rica” at Paso Canoas.

Costa Rica shut its border with Panama last December to cope with about 7,800 Cuban asylum seekers who were journeying north to the U.S. The asylum seekers became stranded when Nicaragua closed its border.

Last month, the last few from this group were flown to Mexico and El Salvador to continue their trip to the U.S., where they are expected to be admitted. Panama says 2,329 more Cubans are in shelters near its border with Costa Rica.

Costa Rican officials have blamed the United States for “promoting” the flow of Cubans.

Cubans automatically qualify for temporary U.S. residence, the right to work legally and some healthcare. More than 43,000 Cubans entered the U.S. by sea and land during 2015, the largest figure in decades.

Open Centers in Greece Turn Into ‘Arbitrary Detention’ Under E.U.–Turkey Deal

Greek authorities, in coordination with the European Union, have resumed automatic detention policies on the islands of Lesbos and Chios, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) on April 14, claiming that the conditions inside the centers are “deplorable.”

Given the possibility of less restrictive options, the blanket detention of all asylum seekers and migrants in closed facilities is unjustified and amounts to “arbitrary detention,” according to the human rights advocacy group.

HRW has recommended that the two closed facilities be converted into open camps with appropriate services and safety for people needing protection from war, persecution and human rights abuses.

“The E.U.’s policy, carried out in Greece, has locked up families and others who have fled horrors such as ISIS terror, Taliban threats or Syrian-government barrel bombs,” said Eva Cossé, Greece specialist at Human Rights Watch.

Both camps began operating as open reception and registration centers for the hundreds of thousands of people who had reached the islands since early 2015. But under the recent E.U.–Turkey deal, they have become prison-like camps since March 20, when the agreement came into effect.

The Moria facility at Lesbos Island is surrounded by a three-layered fence topped with barbed wire and holds about 3,100 people. At the VIAL facility on Chios, which is also surrounded by a barbed wire fence, roughly 1,000 detainees are allowed to move within a limited area containing temporary housing.

Under Greek and international law, all detainees, including irregular migrants and asylum seekers, must be informed, in a language they understand, of the reasons for their detention and their rights, including the right to challenge their detention and the right to legal aid.

None of the people interviewed by Human Rights Watch had been given a detention order or informed about the reasons for their detention.

UNHCR Calls for the Inclusion of IDPs in Colombian Peace Talks

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called for the inclusion of internally displaced Colombians in the country’s forthcoming peace talks, while urging the reintegration of refugees as a means of improving the human rights situation and the economic and social development of remote areas, in a statement on April 12.

On March 30, the Government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion National – ELN) announced that they would start formal peace talks in an effort to end Colombia’s five-decade armed conflict that has produced the world’s second largest displacement of civilians, after Syria.

According to UNHCR estimates, at least 7.8 million civilians have been displaced by the chronic conflict, including 6.7 million displaced inside Colombia, roughly 13 percent of the country’s population.

About 360,000 are officially recognized refugees, with a majority in Ecuador. Another 170,000 Colombians are in Venezuela and in need of international protection.

UNHCR is ready to support the Government of Colombia in its efforts to restore the rights of Colombian internally displaced people and returning refugees and address their protection and assistance needs,” the agency’s spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters at a news briefing in Geneva on April 12.

Earlier this month, on April 9, Colombians paid tribute to the estimated 8 million victims of the conflict as part of the “National Day for the Memory and Solidarity with the Victims,” according to a report by Telesur.

About a quarter-million children in Colombia have been displaced by fighting in the past three years of peace negotiations between the government and the country’s leading guerrilla opposition group, the United Nations said in a report released Saturday.

Recommended Reads:

Top image: A Cuban migrant gets his hair cut by a fellow migrant at a temporary shelter in La Cruz, Costa Rica. (AP Photo/Enrique Martinez)

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