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Executive Summary for January 18th

We review the latest refugee-related issues, including Belgium stepping in to help the Palestinian refugee agency after U.S. cuts, Jewish and Islamic aid groups in joint project in Greece, and Kansas refugee bomb plotters failing to get Trump jury.

Published on Jan. 18, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Belgium First to Respond to U.N. Appeals for Palestinian Agency Funds

Belgium has boosted its support to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees. The pledge of $23 million follows the U.S. move to halve its support.

The refugee agency, UNRWA, which relied on U.S. funding for one-third of its budget, said it was facing the “most dramatic financial crisis” in its 70-year history.

U.N. officials said a global fund-raising drive will begin this week to make up the $65 million shortfall.

Belgium, whose own government nearly collapsed over a refugee returns scandal, became the first country to respond. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that “for a lot of Palestinian refugees, the UNRWA is the last life buoy.”

The Belgian money covers the country’s projected three-year spend in support of the agency, but it will be given in one tranche immediately, the deputy prime minister confirmed.

Among the projects that UNRWA oversees are education schemes for half a million children that try to prevent them being radicalized.

Jewish and Islamic Aid Groups Announce Joint Project in Greece

A Jewish and an Islamic aid agency have joined forces to assist refugees in Greece. The U.S.-based Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) will work together in Athens and on Lesbos.

The two groups will focus on expanding legal services such as strategic litigation and advocacy around refugees’ rights.

“Islamic Relief USA is honored to be partnering with such an esteemed and effective organization like HIAS to protect refugees who are in great need of assistance,” said IRUSA president Anwar Khan. “With recent incidents of people not gaining access to essential services, and many [of] them having their rights violated, we will work to put a stop to these disturbing trends and promote the legal rights of all refugees.”

HIAS has been active on the Greek island of Lesbos since 2016 and the two organizations have worked together previously.

HIAS is incredibly appreciative of Islamic Relief USA’s partnership,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS. “Acting on the tenets of our faiths and historical experiences, HIAS and IRUSA are uniquely positioned to address together the mounting risks faced by refugees in Greece, and potentially offer a valuable model for similar joint efforts.”

Men Accused of Kansas Refugee Bomb Plot Demand Jury of Trump Voters

Three Kansas men accused of plotting to blow up refugees failed to get a jury of Trump voters. The alleged plan would have seen Somali refugees in Garden City hit by a truck bomb.

Lawyers for the trio demanded that jurors should come from rural Kansas counties rather than the city of Wichita and surrounds. They noted that residents of southwestern Kansas were twice as likely to have voted for Trump as prospective jurors in the Wichita area.

The men are accused of plotting to use truck bombs to blow up an apartment block and a mosque where Somali refugees live and pray. The alleged plot was to be carried out the day after the November 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors warned that jury picking along political lines would open a “dangerous door.”

U.S. district judge Eric Melgren ruled that the men’s right to a jury trial before a cross-section of the community would not be violated and said that demographic differences between the regions aren’t legally recognizable.

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