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Executive Summary for May 29th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including a deadly mass escape from traffickers’ captivity in Libya, a Malian man honored in France for saving a toddler’s life, and Austria’s plans to condition welfare on a German-language test.

Published on May 29, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Teens Make Deadly Mass Escape From Traffickers in Libya

Around 140 people have escaped captivity by human traffickers in Libya. Dozens were injured and killed as they were chased down by their captors.

Most of those who escaped on May 23 were teenagers from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia who hope to seek asylum in Europe, said Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

They were being held by “notorious trafficker” Mousa Diab in Bani Walid in northwestern Libya, a statement from IOM and UNHCR said. Some said they had been held for up to three years and sold multiple times by traffickers.

Survivors told MSF that at least 15 people were killed, and that 40 people, mainly women, were left behind in captivity. MSF treated 25 survivors for injuries, including gunshot wounds, and said many others bore signs of torture on their bodies, including scars and burn marks.

The local community in Bani Walid tried to protect the escapees, and many sought refuge in a local mosque. The survivors were eventually transferred to an official detention center near the capital, Tripoli. “Arbitrary detention cannot be a solution,” MSF head of mission Christophe Biteau said.

Meanwhile, there was an increase in migrant boats leaving Libya, with 1,800 people rescued in three days, including a mother who gave birth to a baby she named “Miracle” on board an NGO ship. The E.U. has tried to curb Mediterranean crossings through supporting the Libyan coastguard, which returns people intercepted at sea to Libyan jails.

France Honors Malian Who Saved Toddler’s Life

A 22-year-old Malian man was celebrated as a hero in France after climbing a four-story building to rescue a toddler dangling from a balcony.

Mamoudou Gassama left his country in 2013 and spent nearly a year in Libya before taking a boat to Europe, French press reported. He was living undocumented in France.

The video of Gassama scaling the building to haul the four-year-old to safety went viral. The young boy’s father, who left him alone, now faces charges.

Gassama met with French president Emmanuel Macron, who gave him a medal for courage and offered to expedite his application if he sought French citizenship. Macron suggested Gassama should work with the French emergency services.

In the meeting, Macron emphasized that Gassama was a unique case, and the offer did not signal a softening of his policy toward migrants.

“When they are in danger, we give asylum, but not for economic reasons, but in your case, you did something exceptional,” he said. “An exceptional act does not make a policy.”

Austria Plans to Condition Welfare on Passing Language Test

The Austrian government plans to cut welfare payments to immigrants if they don’t pass a German language test.

Under the proposal, new arrivals will be barred from accessing welfare for five years. Afterwards, they will be eligible for up to 563 euros ($655) a month, unless they pass the language test allowing them to access the standard payment of 863 euros ($995).

The plans may face legal challenges under E.U. rules on equal treatment.

Austria’s conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is in a coalition with the far right, also proposed that the E.U. border force Frontex should operate in North Africa, with local governments’ permission, to crack down on smugglers and block migrant boat departures.

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