Ban Ki-moon Criticizes E.U. Refugee Restrictions as Turkish Politicians Discuss Migrant Deal
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was concerned about the European Union’s increasingly strict restrictions on refugees given its responsibilities under humanitarian law. Addressing the Austrian Parliament on Thursday, Ban warned of “growing xenophobia” among E.U. member states.
“European countries are now adopting increasingly restrictive immigration and refugee policies,” he said. “Such policies and measures send a very negative message about the obligations of member states under international humanitarian law and European law.”
Ban’s statement came just as the Austrian Parliament voted to enforce stricter restrictions on refugees, including legislation that will limit the number of years asylum seekers are able to live in the country. Austria would also be able to declare a state of emergency in the country for up to six months if the number of refugees suddenly increase, or if it posed a threat to its “national security.”
In addition to Vienna’s new legislation, the E.U. and Turkey are negotiating a deal that would slow the influx of refugees and migrants in Europe. Under the terms of the E.U.-Turkey deal, refugees who braved the dangerous sea route to arrive in Greece would be returned to Turkey unless they were able to successfully apply for asylum. Deportations started on April 4, and, so far, 325 people have been forced to leave Greece, the E.U. said in a report released last week.
The deal’s deadline is fixed for next week, but negotiations were delayed on Thursday when a physical fight broke out, unrelated to the refugee deal, in Turkish Parliament between members of Turkey’s ruling party and the pro-Kurdish opposition. The acting speaker decided that Parliament would not resume session until Monday due to the hostile situation. Lawmakers were expected to meet Friday and Saturday to discuss the new refugee legislation that is a key part in the E.U.-Turkey deal.
Italy to Start Fingerprinting Migrants Arriving on Its Shores
Migrants saved at sea in Italy’s waters will now be immediately fingerprinted upon their rescue, Italian officials announced on Thursday. The move could ease tensions between Italy and several other E.U. states that have been pushing the Italian government to implement this measure since last year.
In December, the European Commission demanded that Italy develop a better framework for registering migrants that would allow for “the use of force for fingerprinting and to include provisions on longer term retention for those migrants that resist fingerprinting.”
The E.U. has stressed the need for better documentation on Italy’s shores in the hopes that it would stem the flow of undocumented migrants arriving by sea who then hope to travel to other European countries. If migrants are not fingerprinted and documented as having reached Europe through Italy, other E.U. states are not able to send them back to their point of entry.
The Italian officials’ announcement came just as local Austrian media reported that its government was planning on building a fence along the border with Italy to keep out migrants.
At Least 12 Egyptian Migrants Killed in Libya
Between 12 and 16 Egyptian migrants were killed by members of a human trafficking ring in Libya, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. Libya is a hotspot for hundreds of thousands of migrants from neighboring African countries, particularly Egypt, according to the United Nations.
Violence erupted on Wednesday between the two groups after a financial dispute in the Libyan town of Bani Walid, a local official confirmed to Reuters. Several different militias are currently in control of the town.
“I strongly deplore these terrible killings and call on those with authority on the ground in Bani Walid to ensure that the incidents are investigated, and to prevent any further killings,” said Martin Kobler, special representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
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