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Executive Summary for June 8th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including Turkey suspending its bilateral migrant returns deal with Greece, Lebanon’s foreign minister threatening UNHCR over Syrian returns and the U.N. Security Council sanctioning Libyans accused of trafficking.

Published on June 8, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Turkey Suspends Bilateral Returns Deal with Greece

Turkey suspended its bilateral agreement with Greece on migrant returns in protest against the country’s refusal to extradite Turkish officers accused of plotting a coup.

Greek courts refused Ankara’s request to extradite the eight officers who fled to Greece saying they would not be guaranteed a fair trial in Turkey. The officers, who are accused of involvement in the 2016 coup attempt and are now seeking asylum, were released from detention this week.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the separate agreement between his country and the European Union would remain in place, while threatening further measures against Greece. Some 600 migrants have been returned to Turkey under the bilateral protocol in the last two years, while around 1,600 have returned under the E.U. deal.

While there has been a decrease in the number of refugee boats arriving, people continue to risk their lives to seek passage to Europe via Greece, including nine people who drowned earlier this week.

Another five people, including three children, were killed in northern Greece this week when their van crashed. Two more of the passengers – most of whom are Syrians and Iraqis – are in a serious condition

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Threatens UNHCR Over Syrian Returns

Lebanon’s foreign minister increased his pressure on the United Nations’ refugee agency to support his political allies’ push to return Syrians to their country.

Gebran Bassil, whose party is calling for the immediate mass return of Syrians despite international insistence that it is not safe for them to go back, announced a freeze on all residency applications by UNHCR staff in the country.

He accused the agency of “intimidating the displaced people who wish to return voluntarily.” The UNHCR interviews refugees wishing to return to make sure they are making informed, voluntary decisions.

“We announce our determination to break the international desire to prevent the return of the displaced,” Bassil said.

Security Council Sanctions Libya Smugglers

The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on four Libyans and two Eritreans accused of human trafficking and smuggling after Russia lifted its opposition.

The travel ban and asset freeze targets Abd Al Rahman Al-Milad, described as head of the regional coast guard unit in the Libyan coastal city of Zawiya, and Ahmad Oumar Al-Dabbashi, a commander of the Anas al-Dabbashi militia in Zawiya. A Refugees Deeply investigation last year described murky European deals with smugglers in Libya to stop refugee boats, including the role of Anas al-Dabbashi.

The others on the blacklist are Musab Abu-Qarin, Mohammed Kachlaf, Ermias Ghermay and Fitiwi Abdelrazak.

Russia had blocked the sanctions last month, requesting more evidence. The Netherlands, which initiated the move, said the U.N. sanctions are the first ever against trafficking leaders.

This story has been updated with more details of Lebanon’s measures against UNHCR and to correct the nationalities of the men put on the sanctions list.

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