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Executive Summary for April 8th

We review the latest developments related to refugee issues, including the news of hundreds of asylum seekers reaching Italy after a long and hazardous sea journey from Egypt, the resumption of deportations to Turkey from Greece and new proposals for E.U. asylum options.

Published on April 8, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Hundreds of Asylum Seekers Arrive in Italy From Egypt

In a continuing trend of increased arrivals to Italy this year, asylum seekers are making the journey from as far as Egypt, hundreds of miles away by sea.

The Italian coast guard rescued more than 300 migrants from a packed boat arriving from Egypt to the Strait of Sicily on April 6, according to latest media reports.

Italy’s coast guard and a Spanish aircraft working for Frontex, the European Union border agency, rescued 156 men, 51 women and 107 minors. The migrants were from Syria, Egypt, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Palestinian territory, Libya, Sudan and the Comoros islands, the coast guard said on April 7.

The rescued migrants are set to be taken to the southern Italian port of Crotone, about 770 nautical miles (1,425km) from the coast of northern Egypt.

Since border controls along the Balkan route and the E.U.–Turkey returns went into effect, Italy has faced increased migrant flows. In the first three months of 2016, there has been an 85 percent year-on-year increase in arrivals, according to media reports.

Austria may “close the Brenner Pass if migrant flows become uncontrollable,” interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told the APA news agency, while estimating that the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Italy would double this year from 150,000 in 2015 to 300,000.

Erdogan Threatens to Halt E.U.–Turkey Deal as Deportations Resume

A ferry with 45 migrants left the Greek island of Lesbos for Turkey on April 8 according to Reuters. Those who left early on Friday were from Pakistan.

Greek customs officials told the BBC that 140 people would be travelling on two boats on Friday, with the second carrying 95 from other islands.

Among the returnees, the non-Syrians will be taken to deportation centers. Syrian asylum seekers will be taken to Turkish refugee camps to replace the refugees who will be directly resettled in the E.U. as part of the one-in-one-out deal that the E.U. struck with Turkey.

While Turkey agreed to provide temporary protection to the Syrians returned by Greece, Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan warned that Turkey would ditch the migrant deal if the E.U. broke its promises.

Turkey will not go through with an agreement to take back Syrian migrants from Europe if the European Union does not fulfill its pledges, Erdogan said on Thursday, according to reports by the Middle East Eye and Reuters.

“There are precise conditions. If the European Union does not take the necessary steps, then Turkey will not implement the agreement,” Erdogan said in a speech at the presidential palace in Ankara.

The E.U. has promised Turkey 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) together with visa-free travel for Turkish citizens as part of the agreement.

E.U. Commission Proposes Alternatives to Current Asylum System

The European Commission has proposed opening branches of the European Asylum Support Office, an E.U. body that supports member states in processing asylum claims, in every member state. This would “create a single and centralized decision-making mechanism,” according to a detailed proposal that was leaked to German newspaper Die Welt on April 5.

The Dublin Agreement limits the process by which refugees can apply for asylum upon entry to Europe by giving northern European states the power to return all migrants to the first port of entry. Southern European countries that receive a majority of the people bear the greater part of the burden under this regulation.

The European Commission will likely suggest a modest change that preserves the current system but adds a “fairness” provision so a country struggling to cope can get help, BBC correspondent Damian Grammaticas said.

A second, more radical option would entail distributing refugees around Europe.

“A share of asylum seekers would be reallocated across the E.U., according to a distribution key,” the AAP reported.

Recommended Reads:

Top image: Rescued migrants wear life-jackets as they sit in an Italian navy boat in the Sicily channel, Mediterranean Sea. Rescue workers also recovered the body of a migrant believed to have died during the crossing. (Italian Navy via AP Photo)

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