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Executive Summary for January 2nd

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including a judicial block on the Trump administration’s halt of refugee resettlement, the Catholic Pope’s New Year message on refugees and migrants, and the declining number of refugee arrivals to Europe last year.

Published on Jan. 2, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

U.S. Judge Lifts Suspension of Resettlement for Most Refugees

A U.S. judge partially overturned the Trump administration’s halt on refugee resettlement but legal battles continue over whether most refugees will now be exempt from the ban.

U.S. District Judge James Robart ruled on December 23 that the government cannot suspend refugee resettlement from 11 countries if refugees have a “bona fide” connection to the U.S.

The ruling effectively lifts the administration’s October 24 executive order, which saw refugee admissions to the U.S. plummet. The 11 countries – Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – comprise around 40 percent of U.S.-bound refugees in recent years.

Robart also ordered the government to restart a family reunification program for refugees, which was suspended in the executive order.

Now, the definition of what constitutes a “bona fide” relationship with the U.S. is once again at the center of whether most refugees will be exempt from the suspension, because they are resettled in the U.S. with the assistance of a U.S.-based organization.

Judge Robart said a “bona fide” relationship includes refugees who have agreements with resettlement agencies in the U.S. On December 26, administration lawyers filed a motion arguing that an earlier Supreme Court ruling suggests resettlement agencies do not qualify.

Pope Francis: Don’t Block Refugees’ and Migrants’ Search for Peace

In his New Year’s address, Pope Francis appealed to the world to do more to help refugees and migrants find the peace they are seeking.

The Roman Catholic Church marks World Peace Day on January 1 and the Catholic pontiff said the day was dedicated this year to migrants’ and refugees’ search for peace.

“For this peace, which is the right of everyone, many of them are willing to risk their life in a voyage that is in the great majority of cases long and dangerous, willing to face hardships and suffering,” he told around 40,000 people assembled in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

“Let us not extinguish the hope in their hearts. Let us not suffocate their expectations for peace,” he said. He called on “everyone” including civil society, religious groups and education and welfare institutions to help ensure a peaceful future for migrants and refugees.

Fewer Refugees and Migrants Arrive in Europe by Boat in 2017

The number of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by boat declined in 2017, as did the number of people dying en route.

Some 119,000 people took boats to Italy from North Africa last year, compared to 181,000 a year earlier, after controversial Italian deals in Libya caused boat numbers to drop rapidly over the summer.

According to the U.N., around 2,800 people drowned on their way to Italy in 2017, down from 4,400 a year earlier.

Meanwhile around 29,000 took boats to Greece compared to 173,000 a year earlier amid a 2016 deal that stopped a surge in refugee crossings of the Aegean.

The much less frequented route to Spain saw a rise in refugee boats in 2017, from 6,000 in 2016 to 21,500 last year.

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