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Executive Summary for April 18th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including a Greek court lifting island confinement for newly arrived refugees, Mali violence sending refugees into Burkina Faso, and Yemeni officials being accused of appalling abuses of migrants.

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

Greek Court Ruling on Asylum Seekers Opens the Islands

Greece’s highest court is set to overturn restrictions that limit newly arrived asylum seekers to islands in the eastern Aegean, according to a leaked ruling.

The Council of State decision, when confirmed, may threaten the E.U.-Turkey statement, an agreement that has limited refugee flows into Europe. The E.U. deal with Ankara rests on new arrivals from Turkey being confined on five Greek islands, but the leaked Council of State decision rejects the geographical restriction as unconstitutional.

The ruling would not affect the more than 10,000 asylum seekers already on the islands, only those arriving since it came into effect on April 17.

The Greek government has refused to comment on the issue until the ruling is officially announced.

Under a 2016 ruling by Greece’s asylum authorities, newly arrived asylum seekers must remain on the islands while their application is processed. The E.U-Turkey deal, which was characterized as a “statement” to avoid the legal scrutiny that would have accompanied a formal deal, now appears threatened.

The deterrent effect of the deal, experts said, hinges on the perception among asylum seekers that they would not make it past the islands and it was therefore not worth the risk or expense of the irregular sea crossing.

The ruling was welcomed by human rights groups, who have campaigned to “open the islands,” where local resentment and government mismanagement have reduced refugees and migrants to living in appalling conditions.

Mali Violence Pushes Refugees Into Crisis-Stricken Burkina Faso

Clashes in Mali have driven thousands of refugees into neighboring Burkina Faso. Ethnic clashes between groups in the Mopti region have forced 3,000 people to flee, the U.N. refugee agency said.

Peul and Dogon communities in Mali have clashed violently in recent months, adding to instability with jihadist groups in the north of the country.

Burkina Faso, which is already close to famine, hosts 24,000 Malians who have arrived since Islamic groups seized the north of the country in 2012.

UNHCR officials said they feared that the influx, although small, would overwhelm northern areas already facing the fallout from poor rains.

“We think that the influx of new asylum seekers might aggravate the situation,” UNHCR spokeswoman Marlies Cardoen told Reuters.

“We want them to come to Ouahigouya (the nearest town) or the refugee camp where we can register them all and give them food aid,” said Cardoen.

Yemen Accused of Torturing, Raping and Killing African Migrants in Detention

Yemeni government officials have been accused of raping, torturing and executing refugees. The abuses happened in a detention center in Aden, according to Human Rights Watch.

The asylum seekers, mainly from the Horn of Africa, have been denied access to asylum and routinely pushed back to dangerous conditions at sea.

Former inmates at the center told the rights group of routine beatings, sexual assaults, theft and in two cases executions.

“Guards at the migrant detention center in Aden have brutally beaten men, raped women and boys, and sent hundreds out to sea in overloaded boats,” said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The crisis in Yemen provides zero justification for this cruelty and brutality, and the Yemeni government should put a stop to it and hold those responsible to account.”

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