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Executive Summary for June 3rd

We review the most recent issues related to refugees including the rising migrant death toll on the Mediterranean, Austria being on the verge of reaching its self-imposed refugee quota and Amnesty’s condemnation of the E.U.’s plan to return refugees to Turkey.

Published on June 3, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Migrant Death Toll Continues to Rise on the Mediterranean

Around 100 bodies washed up on the shores of Libya on Friday, just as another migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean.

Greek search and rescue teams were able to save 342 migrants and recover four bodies from a shipwreck off the island of Crete in international waters, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM.) Rescuers are still searching for another 300 people who were also believed to be onboard, according to Deutsche-Welle.

Also on Friday, 107 bodies washed up on Libya’s shores near the western city of Zwara. The bodies are thought to have been on a boat that search and rescue officials believe may have capsized on Wednesday. The death toll is expected to rise as a further 21 migrants are still missing

Mohammed al-Mosrati, spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent, told the Associated Press that the bodies had “decomposed and therefore have drowned within the past 48 hours.”

Last week, a branch of the Libyan Red Crescent shut down its search and rescue operations in Zawiya, west of Tripoli, because they had run out of supplies needed to operate. Their work included recovering and identifying bodies washed ashore, as well as providing shelter, medical aid and food for those rescued from shipwrecks.

Speaking about the mounting death toll of migrants leaving Libya, Col. Ayoub Gassim, a spokesman for the Libyan navy, told the AP that Europe was “doing nothing but counting bodies.”

Austria on the Verge of Reaching Refugee Quota

Barely halfway through the year, Austrian authorities claim the country has already taken in more than 50 percent of its self-imposed refugee quota for 2016.

Earlier this year, the Austrian government announced that it would not take in more than 37,500 refugees in 2016. Austrian officials now claim the country has taken in more than half that quota. However, the official migration figures for the first five months of this year state that 22,300 asylum applications were filed in 2016, but only 12,261 have been approved, according to EurActiv. The website added: “Vienna’s figures for the year so far could be accused of being misleading, given that 6,689 people have had their applications approved, even though they submitted them in 2015.”

Austria’s minister of the interior, Wolfgang Sobotka, defended the discrepancy, saying: “Regardless of asylum application date, we have processed 18,950 people this year.”

Amnesty Calls E.U.’s Plan to Return Refugees to Europe ‘Illegal’

Amnesty International issued a report condemning the European Union’s deal with Ankara to return refugees to Turkey, calling it both “illegal” and “reckless.”

The human rights advocacy organization urged the E.U. to “immediately halt” the return to Turkey of refugees who have arrived in European countries. The statement came after Amnesty released a 35-page report documenting the “shortcomings in Turkey’s asylum system and the hardships refugees face.”

In March, the E.U. came to an agreement with Ankara that would see refugees, the majority of whom braved dangerous journeys to reach Europe, returned to Turkey. The E.U.’s main justification for the deal is that it considers Turkey to be a “safe third country” for refugees. But Turkey has failed three major aspects of the criteria required under international law to qualify for that label, according to Amnesty’s investigation.

“Amnesty International’s findings expose as a fiction the idea that Turkey is able to respect the rights and meet the needs of over three million asylum-seekers and refugees,” John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement. “In its relentless efforts to prevent irregular arrivals to Europe, the E.U. has wilfully misrepresented what is actually happening on the ground in Turkey.”

Under international law, a “safe third country” is defined as one that has the proper infrastructure and capabilities for refugees to obtain asylum, long-term solutions for refugee integration or safe repatriation and government-provided means of subsistence for asylum seekers.

If Turkey is not able to meet those standards, then it would not qualify as a “safe third country” and returning refugees there would be a violation of international law.

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