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Executive Summary for February 9th

We review the latest news related to refugees, including a Kenyan court overruling the government on the closure of Dadaab, the European Commission threatening financial penalties over a failing relocation scheme and Japan refusing 99.7 percent of asylum claims.

Published on Feb. 9, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Kenyan Judge Quashes Illegal Closure of Largest Refugee Camp

A Kenyan judge has quashed a government order to close the Dadaab refugee camp, Agence France-Presse reported. The court ruled that Kenya’s internal security minister had abused his power by ordering the May shutdown.

Judge John Mativo said the Kenyan government had not proved that Somalia was a safe country of return. Dadaab, which is a complex of camps on Kenya’s border with Somalia, has a population of more than a quarter of a million people, mainly Somalis.

The judge concluded that the closure was unconstitutional and discriminatory, and that it violated refugees’ rights under international treaties.

Kenya announced it would be closing Dadaab in May 2016, shortly after the E.U. announced a deal with Turkey to halt refugee flows into Europe. Kenyan officials argued that they should receive equivalent rewards to Turkey for agreeing to host refugee populations inside their borders.

Residents of Dadaab have faced a series of setbacks, with few asylum options and the U.S. administration seeking to prevent them from resettling in the United States.

Laetitia Bader from Human Rights Watch welcomed the ruling: “After months of anxiety because of the camp closure deadline hanging over their heads, the court’s judgment offers Somali refugees a hope that they may still have a choice other than returning to insecure and drought-ridden Somalia.”

European Commission Warns of Penalties over Failed Relocation

The E.U. has relocated fewer than 14,000 refugees from Greece and Italy against a target of 160,000. European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans threatened penalties for members who refused to take part.

Timmermans said it was “highly unfair” that some countries in central Europe had refused to take part, the Guardian reported. He suggested that large financial penalties could follow the end of the current scheme in September.

“It is highly urgent for countries to live up to their pledges, with the legally binding scheme set to expire in September,” Timmermans said. “The commission might start infraction procedures and we will certainly consider that.”

Japan Refuses 99.7 Percent of Asylum Claims

Japan accepted fewer than 30 refugees in 2016 despite a record number of asylum applications, Reuters reported.

The country, the world’s fourth largest economy, considered nearly 11,000 applications but granted status to just 28 people.

Asylum claims jumped 44 percent from a year earlier, according to government documents. The previous year Japan accepted 27 refugees.

Of those granted status, seven were from Afghanistan, four from Ethiopia and three from Eritrea, according to the document seen by Reuters. It is not known whether any Syrians applied for, or received, asylum.

Japan’s reluctance to accept asylum seekers runs against demand in its labor market and the impact of an aging population. It remains one of the major donors to international aid organizations but has refused to relax immigration laws or grant status to those working in its shadow economy.

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