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Kenya’s threat to close Dadaab camp plays on international refugee fears by Neil James Wilson

Kenya’s threat to close Dadaab camp plays on international refugee fears
by Neil James Wilson

Copyright: The Conversation.

The Kenyan government says that it plans to close Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. It had also threatened to close the country’s other major refugee camp, Kakuma, but has subsequently said it won’t. Speaking at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Deputy President William Ruto declared that Dadaab will be closed by the end of the year.

This move has gained much-needed attention. Kenya continues to host one of the largest refugee populations at a time when international attention has overwhelmingly turned to Europe and the movement of people out of Syria. Despite hosting more than half a million people, the camps’ remote locations and longevity have made them easy to ignore.

In addition to the planned camp closure, Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs has been shut down. Though the government has threatened to restrict refugees to camps or close the camps altogether several times before, this suggests a worrying escalation. Established in 2006 alongside the country’s Refugee Act, the department worked with the United Nations Refugee Agency to register and assist refugees in Kenya. Who will fill the gap left by this closure is unclear.

While not in this case, previous threats have often followed bloody terror attacks such as at the ones at the Westgate Mall in 2013 or Garissa University College in 2015. These have led to refugees being equated with terrorism, and Dadaab being labelled a “nursery for al-Shabaab”.

The reality is that the camp highlights the violence that has led many to flee Somalia for the relative safety of Kenya.

The perceived danger posed by the movement of refugees serves as a useful tool in populist politics. It can serve as a bargaining chip in negotiating further aid or galvanise fearful citizens. As Donald Trump’s fear mongering over Syrian refugees and anti-migrant rhetoric in South Africa have shown, this is not unique to Kenya.

Grave consequences

If enacted, the government’s plans would have grave consequences for the hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Kenya. Global resettlement of refugees is already low and unlikely to meet the needs of those being told to now leave Kenya.

The closure would result in refugees returning to unsafe countries, moving to other countries in the region that already have their own extensive refugee populations, shifting from Dadaab to the already overpopulated Kakuma or making dangerous journeys to try to reach safety further afield. The move is also in breach of national, regional and international law.

The recent start of campaigning for the 2017 Kenyan elections and the announcement concerning refugees is not coincidental. Like the plans to build a border wall with Somalia, the scapegoating of refugees plays out well with parts of the electorate.

The timing of this move, and the reasons behind it, hold important lessons for understanding refugee situations around the world. In particular:

  • that longstanding humanitarian situations should not be ignored;
  • that there are very deep inequalities between different refugee populations; and
  • that, in a world increasingly fearful of the presence of refugees, there is mileage in host countries drawing attention to the burden they carry.

Read full article on The Conversation at: Kenya’s threat to close Dadaab camp plays on international refugee fears.

 

News: Border force warns terrorists could enter EU by abusing asylum checks

News:

Border force warns terrorists could enter EU by abusing asylum checks
By Migration correspondent at The Guardian

Frontex police escort migrants, who are being deported from Lesbos, on to a ferry before it returns to Turkey. Photograph: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

Frontex border agency’s annual risk analysis echoes previous warnings that irregular migratory flows could be used by terrorists to enter the EU.

The EU’s border force has warned that terrorists may have infiltrated Europe by hiding among asylum seekers, noting that two of the bombers in last November’s Paris attacks arrived on the continent in a smuggling boat from Turkey.

Frontex’s annual risk analysis, released on Tuesday, said: “The Paris attacks in November 2015 clearly demonstrated that irregular migratory flows could be used by terrorists to enter the EU.”

Echoing observations made five months ago, the report added: “Two of the terrorists involved in the attacks had previously irregularly entered through Leros and had been registered by the Greek authorities. They presented fraudulent Syrian documents to speed up their registration process.

“As the vast majority of migrants arrive undocumented, screening activities are essential to properly verify their declaration of nationality.”

Frontex’s suggestions come weeks after European politicians introduced a stringent new border policy that will see almost all asylum seekers landing on islands such as Leros returned to Turkey.

Read Full Article – Border force warns terrorists could enter EU by abusing asylum checks.

 

News: Greece on brink of chaos as refugees riot over forced return to Turkey

News from The Guardian (UK):

Greece on brink of chaos as refugees riot over forced return to Turkey

A woman feeds pigeons at the port of Piraeus near Athens where migrants are camped out. Photograph: Yorgos Karahalis/AP Image Copyright: Guardian and Associated Press.

The Greek government is bracing itself for violence ahead of the European Union implementing a landmark deal that, from Monday, will see Syrian refugees and migrants being deported back to Turkey en masse.

Rioting and rebellion by thousands of entrapped refugees across Greece has triggered mounting fears in Athens over the practicality of enforcing an agreement already marred by growing concerns over its legality. Islands have become flashpoints, with as many as 800 people breaking out of a detention centre on Chios on Friday.

Some 750 migrants are set to be sent back between Monday and Wednesday from the island of Lesbos to the Turkish port of Dikili.

“We are expecting violence. People in despair tend to be violent,” the leftist-led government’s migration spokesman, Giorgos Kyritsis, told the Observer. “The whole philosophy of the deal is to deter human trafficking [into Europe] from the Turkish coast, but it is going to be difficult and we are trying to use a soft approach. These are people have fled war. They are not criminals.”

Barely 24 hours ahead of the pact coming into force, it emerged that Frontex, the EU border agency, had not dispatched the appropriate personnel to oversee the operation. Eight Frontex boats will transport men, women and children, who are detained on Greek islands and have been selected for deportation, back across the Aegean following fast-track asylum hearings. But of the 2,300 officials the EU has promised to send Greece only 200 have so far arrived, Kyritsis admitted.

Read Full Article: Greece on brink of chaos as refugees riot over forced return to Turkey.

News: Conditions Rapidly Deteriorating for Children Detained in Moria Camp on Lesvos

News from ReliefWeb:

Conditions Rapidly Deteriorating for Children Detained in Moria Camp on Lesvos

Media Contact: Media@savechildren.org

FAIRFIELD, CT (April 3, 2016) — Save the Children expressed deep concern today over the deplorable conditions in Moria detention center on the Greek island of Lesvos, where more than 1,000 children, many traveling alone, are detained as part of the EU-Turkey deal.

In addition to concerns around the detention of asylum seekers, the agency is also shocked by the lack of safeguards in place for those likely to be returned to Turkey in less than 24 hours. It calls on European leaders to urgently rethink their proposal and suspend all transfers to Turkey until there is a guarantee that those in need of international protection will receive it.

“The situation inside Moria detention center is deteriorating rapidly,” said Simona Mortolini, Save the Children Team Leader in Greece. “We have spoken to families and children who are sleeping outside on the cold ground on thin blankets because there is nowhere else for them to sleep in the overcrowded accommodation facilities. The camp was initially designed to host a few hundred people transiting through within a day. It now hosts 3,300 people, many have been trapped there for more than a week.”

“People continue to arrive to the island and the number of families detained in the center continues to increase by the day. It is extremely dangerous for children and we are worried about their physical and mental well-being, especially those children travelling alone.”

“There are reports of protests and people have told us they will commit suicide if they are sent back to Turkey. Some said they will jump off the boats. People are absolutely desperate. They have sold all their worldly possessions to pay for the journey from Turkey to Greece, they already risked their lives at sea to make the crossing. There is nothing left for them to return to – in Turkey or in their countries of origin that are marred by wars and widespread violence and insecurity.”

As part of the new EU-Turkey deal, which came into effect on 20 March, newly-arrived vulnerable children and their families, regardless of their status, have been detained in closed facilities on the Greek islands until their individual interview and assessment take place – which could take weeks or months.

Read Full Article – Conditions Rapidly Deteriorating for Children Detained in Moria Camp on Lesvos

 

News – Migrant crisis: Greece starts deportations to Turkey

From the BBC News Service:

Migrant crisis: Greece starts deportations to Turkey

First group of returned migrants were welcomed by Turkish officials in Diki. Image Copyright: BBC.

The first boat carrying migrants being deported from Greece has arrived in Turkey as part of an EU plan aimed at easing mass migration to Europe.

Scores of migrants boarded ferries on the Greek island of Lesbos and arrived in Dikili, western Turkey.

Frontex, the EU’s border agency, told the BBC that most of the 136 people who left Lesbos on Monday were Pakistanis.

Meanwhile, the first group of 16 Syrian migrants has arrived in Germany from Turkey, officials say.

Under the deal, for each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey, the EU is due to take in another Syrian who has made a legitimate request.

However, Greek authorities said the first deportees were those who had not applied for asylum, and included citizens from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Morocco.

And Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir said there were no Syrians among the first group of migrants sent from Greece.

Another ferry carrying migrants to Turkey is also due to leave the Greek island of Chios on Monday.

The returns were carried out calmly, despite a small protest at the gate of Lesbos port, where activists shouted ‘No to deportations’ and ‘EU shame on you’, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford at the scene said.

Read Full Article – Migrant crisis: Greece starts deportations to Turkey.

See Also – ReliefWeb: Turkey prepares for up to 500 migrants from Greece on Monday

News: UN rights chief concerned over ‘collective expulsion’ of migrants after EU-Turkey deal

22 March 2016 – The United Nations refugee agency has announced that it is “not a party” to the new provisions agreed between the European Union (EU) and Turkey to stem the large-scale flow of refugees and migrants into Greece and Europe, and that it will align its work to cope with the deal.

Till now, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been supporting the authorities in the so-called “hotspots” on the Greek islands, where refugees and migrants were received, assisted, and registered. Under the EU-Turkey deal, which came into effect this past Sunday, these sites have now become detention facilities, and all new “irregular” migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands will be returned to Turkey.

UNHCR has a policy on opposing mandatory detention. Accordingly, it has suspended some of activities at all closed centres on the islands, including provision of transport to and from these sites.

“UNHCR is not a party to the EU-Turkey deal, nor will we be involved in returns or detention,” the agency said in a press release. “We will continue to assist the Greek authorities to develop an adequate reception capacity.”

Read Full Article: UN News Centre – UN rights chief concerned over ‘collective expulsion’ of migrants after EU-Turkey deal.

 

News: UN refugee agency redefines role in Greece as EU-Turkey deal comes into effect

22 March 2016 – The United Nations refugee agency has announced that it is “not a party” to the new provisions agreed between the European Union (EU) and Turkey to stem the large-scale flow of refugees and migrants into Greece and Europe, and that it will align its work to cope with the deal.

Till now, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been supporting the authorities in the so-called “hotspots” on the Greek islands, where refugees and migrants were received, assisted, and registered. Under the EU-Turkey deal, which came into effect this past Sunday, these sites have now become detention facilities, and all new “irregular” migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands will be returned to Turkey.

UNHCR has a policy on opposing mandatory detention. Accordingly, it has suspended some of activities at all closed centres on the islands, including provision of transport to and from these sites.

“UNHCR is not a party to the EU-Turkey deal, nor will we be involved in returns or detention,” the agency said in a press release. “We will continue to assist the Greek authorities to develop an adequate reception capacity.”

Read Full Article: UN News Centre – UN refugee agency redefines role in Greece as EU-Turkey deal comes into effect.