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Executive Summary for April 20th

We review the latest refugee-related developments, including the death of more than 20 Rohingya when a boat capsized in the Bay of Bengal, Human Rights Watch’s claims that the first returns from Greece to Turkey were “riddled with abuse” and the continued flight of Sout

Published on April 20, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

At Least 21 Dead After Boatful of Rohingya Capsizes

At least 21 people, including nine children, died after a boat capsized in rough waters off the coast of Myanmar’s Rakhine state on Tuesday, a U.N. spokesman said.

Malta-based NGO Migrant Report said that the boat was hit by strong waves on Tuesday morning as it attempted to reach safety at Thae Chaung village near Sittwe, the capital of Arakan (Rakhine) state, in western Myanmar.

One-third of the roughly 60 passengers on board remain unaccounted for, according to Migrant Report’s sources on the ground.

The passengers were traveling from Sin Tet Maw camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) to a segregated market for Muslims at Thae Chaung, one of a handful of destinations to which they are legally permitted to travel.

Since 2012, Muslims have not been allowed to trade at Sittwe’s municipal market, which is situated on the Kaladan River in the town center. As a result, Rohingyas traveling from the town of Pauktaw need to navigate a stretch of rough sea to reach alternative ports on the Bay of Bengal.

A rising tide of Buddhist nationalism has deepened hostility toward the Rohingya in recent years. A vast majority of Rohingya are stateless; Myanmar’s citizenship laws exclude them as they are not recognized as a distinct ethnic minority group.

Many Rohingya are able to trace their presence in the country back several generations.

Violence and deprivation have led thousands from the persecuted group to take to the sea in crammed boats, in the hope of seeking sanctuary in Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia. Some manage to get as far as Australia.

HRW: First Deportations From Greece to Turkey ‘Riddled with Abuse

The first round of E.U.-sanctioned deportations, of 66 people from the Greek island of Chios to Turkey on April 4, 2016, was “rushed, chaotic, and violated the rights of those deported,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.

In Turkey, the detained deportees lost contact with family and friends who remained in Greece. Turkish authorities have not allowed visits by rights groups or the U.N. so far.

“In the mad dash to start the deportations deal with Turkey, the European Union and Greece tossed rights to the wind, including for people who wanted to seek asylum,” said Fred Abrahams, associate director at Human Rights Watch.

Greek authorities did not systematically inform people they were to be deported, or provide them with information about where they were being taken. Many were not allowed to take their personal possessions.

According to UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, 13 of those deported from Chios had expressed a desire to seek asylum in Greece. That number could be higher, HRW added.

Relatives and friends of the 19 deportees, who did not want their names published, told Human Rights Watch the police had called people on the false pretext that they were to be registered, including for asylum.

Despite Turkey’s assurances that it provides work authorization for Syrians under a “temporary visitor” status, fewer than 1 percent of Syrian refugees have qualified for work permits over the past year, according to the latest reports issued by the Turkish government to NGOs.

The Norwegian Refugee Council and other NGOs have repeatedly called for the deportations to be “halted” under present conditions.

Civilians Continue to Flee South Sudan

A combination of new waves of fighting, food insecurity and severe humanitarian funding shortages are prompting the flight of civilians from South Sudan.

All of the African nation’s six neighbors – Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda – are now reporting rising inflows of South Sudanese refugees, partly due to a lack of sufficient humanitarian assistance.

“With the Regional Refugee Response Plan funded at just 8 percent, many life-saving services are threatened and UNHCR is extremely concerned,” spokesperson Ariane Rummery saidduring a news briefing in Geneva on April 19.

Since late January, an estimated 52,000 people have fled to neighboring Sudan, the country from which South Sudan gained independence in 2011.

Neighboring Uganda has also witnessed a sharp rise in refugee arrivals from South Sudan since January, sometimes as many as 800 individuals per day. In total, 28,000 South Sudanese – 86 per cent of them women and children – have sought refuge there.

Some 2.3 million people have had to flee their homes since violence broke out in South Sudan in December 2013 – 678,000 of them have crossed borders, while 1.69 million are displaced within the country.

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