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Executive Summary for June 2nd

We review the most recent issues related to refugees including President Obama’s plan to step up refugee resettlement in the U.S., refugees stranded in a South Korean airport and Austria’s newest refugee center destroyed in an arson attack.

Published on June 2, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

U.S. to Step Up Syrian Refugee Resettlements

The White House is trying to increase the government’s capability for resettling Syrian refugees in order to meet its self-imposed quota.

President Barack Obama is now trying to “add bandwidth” for processing Syrian refugee resettlements “without taking any shortcuts on security,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in a briefing on Wednesday.

Last September, Obama vowed to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the fiscal year in September 2016. So far this year, the U.S. has only resettled 2,500 Syrian refugees – only 25 percent of Obama’s goal, according to the New York Times.

“Given that we’ve resettled so few refugees and we’re employing a deterrence strategy to refugees on our Southern border, I wouldn’t think we’d be giving advice to any other nations about doing better,” Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York, told the New York Times. “The world notices when we talk a good game but then we don’t follow through in our own backyard.”

But the number of resettlements already sharply increased in May. Last week, the U.S. had a record-high day for Syrian refugee resettlements. Some 225 Syrian refugees were granted resettlement on Monday, followed by another 85 on Tuesday.

Syrian Refugees Stranded at Seoul Airport

Dozens of migrants and Syrian refugees are stranded at a South Korean airport, living in an overcrowded deportation room.

Around 180 migrants and refugees have been trapped at Incheon International Airport for at least two months, after South Korea denied their application for refugee status, according to CNN. They are now living in the airport’s deportation room, which was made to hold about 50 people, while they appeal their cases.

Among those trapped in the airport are 28 Syrians who are fleeing the ongoing violence in their home country. Mohammed, a Syrian from Aleppo in his early 20s, told CNN that South Korea rejected his application because he did not come directly from Syria, but from Turkey and then China.

“It’s impossible for me and my friends to return. Some are running away from the army, some are running away from the government or military service,” he said. “We ran because we don’t want to be a part of the war. We don’t want to hold a gun.”

In addition to the Syrians, migrants from Thailand, China, Egypt, Kazakhstan and Pakistan are also trapped in the airport in similar situations, according to the Asia Times.

“I would like to encourage the Korean government to take a larger responsibility, larger part of burden-sharing because the world is going through a huge humanitarian crisis,” Naveed Hussain, UNHCR’s director in Seoul, told Yonhap News Agency. “Korea went through a big war and had large-scale displacement. Korea was also helped. Korea did receive international aid. Now it’s Korea’s turn to help the others.”

Arson Attack at Austria’s Newest Migrant Reception Center

A new migrant center in Austria was set ablaze overnight on Wednesday, destroying the entire structure expected to house dozens of asylum seekers.

Forty-eight migrants were due to arrive in two weeks at the new residential center on the border with Germany, according to Reuters. The Red Cross owned the building, which suffered $335,000 in damages. The organization vowed to rebuild the migrant center, Voice of America reported.

“It was a shock for us,” Red Cross spokesperson Stefan Neubauer said, adding that 48 people had been due to move into the building in two weeks’ time. “It was an act of vandalism with which we have not been confronted yet.”

An investigation into the fire has been opened, but Austrian authorities and the Red Cross have said that preliminary reports indicate the fire was caused by an act of arson.

“There can be no tolerance for extremist criminal acts,” Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said in a statement. “Violence against those seeking protection is not the solution and is a breeding ground for radicalization.”

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