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Executive Summary for May 9th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including Kenya’s decision to close down all refugee camps, how Brexit could unravel the E.U.-Turkey refugee deal and Italy’s rescue of nearly 1,800 migrants in the Mediterranean.

Published on May 9, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Kenya To Close All Refugee Camps

Kenya announced Monday that it would close all refugee camps in the country, which could leave up to 600,000 people displaced. The government stated the decision was made to secure Kenya’s “national security interests,” but did not say when the closures would begin.

“The Government of Kenya acknowledges that the decision will have adverse effects on the lives of refugees and therefore the international community must collectively take responsibility on humanitarian needs that will arise out of this action,” Karanja Kibicho, Kenya’s secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said.

Kenya is home to roughly 463 000 Somali refugees who have fled violence in the neighboring country of Somalia, where the extremist militant group al-Shabaab has been fighting with the government. Al-Shabaab has also carried out several attacks in Kenya over the past two years. Returning Somali refugees would be a “violation of Kenya’s obligations under international law,” Amnesty International said.

“This reckless decision by the Kenyan government is an abdication of its duty to protect the vulnerable and will put thousands of lives at risk,” Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s regional director in East Africa, told the Independent. “It could lead to the involuntary return of thousands of refugees to Somalia and other countries of origin, where their lives may still be in danger.”

Brexit Could Crumble The Fragile E.U.-Turkey Refugee Deal

Britain’s possible exit from the European Union, to be voted on by the British public on June 23, could unravel the deal between the E.U. and Turkey to stem the flow of refugees to member states, several EU powers warned on Monday.

“It took the E.U. about a year get to this agreement … so, a Brexit now would mark a serious setback that would undermine Europe’s collective handling of the crisis while allowing some states to instead act independently, choosing to deal with the migration problem, or not at all,” Greek deputy defense minister Dimitris Vitsas told Deutsche-Welle.

The E.U. and Turkey agreed to a deal on March 20 that would see all rejected asylum seekers who have reached Europe returned to Turkey. In exchange, the E.U. has pledged ($6.85 billion) to help Turkey deal with the refugee crisis and has softened visa restrictions for Turkish nationals.

British prime minister David Cameron also warned that the U.K.’s exit from the E.U. could risk creating a hostile relationship with other member states. Despite his statement, he defended the decision to hold the referendum on the U.K.’s future with the E.U.

“You shouldn’t try to hold an independent sovereign nation in an organisation against its will,” Cameron said.

Italy Rescues Nearly 1,800 Migrants In the Mediterranean

Italian search-and-rescue workers rescued nearly 1,800 migrants trying to reach Italy from North Africa by boat in a 24-hour period last week. Ten separate rescue operations involving the Italian Navy, the coastguard and the Guardia di Finanza (Italy’s anti-smuggling authority) were carried out on Thursday and Friday, the Italian navy said over the weekend.

So far this year, roughly 28,600 migrants have reached Europe using the Mediteranean route to Italy – only slightly higher than the 2015 figures, according to UNHCR. However, the recent surge in rescue operations indicates that the summer months will bring an increase in the number of migrants travelling on the perilous sea route from North African countries – particularly Libya – to Italy.

Last week, nearly 100 migrants were feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean after two boats capsized hours after their departure from the Libyan port of Sabratha. A commercial vessel and Italian ships were able to rescue more than 120 migrants from the two shipwrecks.

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