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Executive Summary for March 27th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including a tense E.U.- Turkey summit in Bulgaria, a U.N. refugee official warning of ‘shocking’ conditions on Nauru and refugees held hostage in Greece.

Published on March 27, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Little Progress at E.U.-Turkey Summit

Leaders of the E.U. and Turkey failed to reach a breakthrough in relations at a summit in Bulgaria, with E.U. funds under a refugee deal apparently the sole area of agreement.

The E.U. recently announced an additional $3.7 billion in refugee aid to Turkey under the March 2016 deal to curb refugee boats reaching Europe via the Aegean Sea.

The E.U. also put visa-free travel to the E.U. and faster accession talks on the table under the deal, but relations have deteriorated since an attempted coup in Turkey prompted a wide-ranging crackdown.

European Council president Donald Tusk said no solutions or compromises were reached at the summit in Varna, Bulgaria. “While our relationship is going through difficult times, in areas where we do cooperate, we cooperate well,” he said.

“It would be a serious mistake for the bloc to push Turkey out of its enlargement politics,” Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said following the summit.

UNHCR Official: Conditions on Nauru ‘Very, Very Shocking’

A senior U.N. refugee agency official who visited the Australian-run center for refugees on the Pacific island of Nauru described conditions there as “very, very shocking.”

“I think the situation of children going the path of self-harm and suicide is symptomatic of the despair and hopelessness that is prevailing here,” said Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR Asia Pacific director. He described meeting a 14-year-old girl who is in a catatonic state over the trauma of separation from her mother who is in Australia for medical treatment.

Australia holds refugees traveling by boat in offshore camps in the Pacific and refuses them asylum in Australia. The country reached a deal with the U.S. in 2016 to resettle some of the refugees languishing in offshore detention, but hundreds are still waiting on the islands.

“While there is a perspective that this is a policy that takes people away from harm and death at sea we should make sure that that approach does not lead to individuals eventually being harmed on land,” UNHCR’s Ratwatte said.

Eritreans Held for Ransom in Thessaloniki; Three Suspects Arrested

Greece arrested three people suspected of holding a group of refugees and migrants hostage in the city of Thessaloniki.

Police said 13 Eritreans, seven Pakistanis and one person from Myanmar crossed from Turkey into Greece last week and were taken by the three smugglers to a warehouse outside the city. The smugglers, themselves of Pakistani origin, then demanded 2,500 euros ($3,105) per person for their release, according to the Associated Press. They were arrested two days later.

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