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Executive Summary for February 15th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including the U.S. shuttering refugee offices around the country, the U.N. Security Council being told of a ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza, and the E.U. saying rebel member states could face budget cuts.

Published on Feb. 15, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

U.S. to Shutter Refugee Resettlement Offices Amid Cuts

The U.S. is closing 20 refugee resettlement offices in response to cuts. Another 40 agencies will reduce operations amid cuts imposed by the Trump administration.

The move follows reductions in the number of refugees admitted, ordered by the White House, as well as legal tussles over travel bans for refugees and deep cuts to related programs.

The U.S. reduced the number of refugees it accepts from a high of 110,000 under the Obama administration to 45,000 annually, the lowest cap since 1980.

The resettlement offices are run by private nonprofit agencies and provide a range of services for newly arrived refugees. These range from support to set up bank accounts and find housing and jobs to help with accessing healthcare and school enrollment.

The White House has defended the cuts, arguing that it is more cost effective to help refugees in their regions of origin.

“The changes will consolidate smaller affiliates, reduce costs and simplify management structures to help the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program run in a way that is fiscally responsible and sustainable in the long term,” State Department spokeswoman Cheryl Harris told Reuters.

Robert Carey, who directed the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the previous administration, said, “The population doesn’t go away when you turn off the spigot.” He added, “If the intent is really to have people integrate into society then doing this is counter to that intent.”

Gaza Suffering ‘Catastrophic’ Conditions, U.N. Security Council Told

Conditions in Gaza are “catastrophic”, the U.N. Security Council has been warned. A closed-door session was told that the situation was made worse by U.S. cuts to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) was informed in January that the U.S. was withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million installment.

Bolivian ambassador Sacha Llorentty Soliz told the Security Council session that drinking water was running out, hospitals had closed and “doctors stopped doing surgeries.”

Nikolay Mladenov, the special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, warned that Gaza’s unemployment rate was up to 47 percent, rising to 60 percent for young people.

The Bolivian ambassador blamed Israel, which he said bears “primary responsibility.” Israel, which supported U.S. cuts to UNRWA funding, blames Hamas, the Islamic militant group that dominates the Gaza strip.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will address the Security Council on the situation faced by Palestinians on February 20. He is expected to ask for an end to the occupation, which began in 1967, and an independent Palestine.

E.U. Executive Warns of Budget Cuts to Refugee-Refusing Member States

The European Commission says access to E.U. budgets should be linked to respect for rules. The warning comes as Brussels wrangles with Poland over its refusal to receive asylum seekers.

The E.U. executive has been at odds with Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic over efforts to relocate refugees from the front-line states of Italy and Greece.

Italy has demanded the E.U. discipline the so-called Visegrad 4 countries whose refusal has sabotaged efforts at mandatory relocation quotas.

The E.U. budget accounts for 1 percent of the bloc’s GDP but is disproportionately spent on infrastructure in poorer members, such as Poland.

“It is … the moment to consider how the link between E.U. funding and the respect for the E.U.’s fundamental values can be strengthened,” the Commission said in a statement.

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