Executive Summary for September 5th

We review the latest news related to refugees, including Chancellor Merkel’s defense of her open door policy, the E.U. president’s warning that Europe is reaching its maximum capacity for refugees, and Australian protests in support of asylum seekers.

Published on Sep. 5, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Chancellor Merkel Defends Open Door Policy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her “open doors” stance on refugees against in the wake of opposition parties’ accusations of a “reckless policy.”

Prior to her Christian Democrat party being beaten into third place by the anti-immigration AfD party in a local election on Sunday, Merkel defended her actions as a “humanitarian responsibility,” according to recent media reports.

One year ago last weekend, Germany opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers, mostly from the Middle East.

The integration of these refugees into the German labor market and society have become a source of intense political debate, with voters increasingly rebuking Merkel on her policies over the last year.

Amid the political pressure, Germany is considering returning certain nationalities back to Greece under the Dublin regulations, whereby asylum seekers can be deported to the first European country of entry.

Germany bore an expenditure of nearly $59.1 billion on welfare benefits for refugees in 2015 – double the amount spent in 2014, according to federal statistics.

But Merkel has maintained that refugees are not diverting social welfare away from German citizens. “We did not reduce benefits for anyone in Germany as a result of the aid for refugees. In fact, we actually saw social improvements in some areas,” she told Reuters.

E.U. Head Claims Europe Close to ‘Limit on Refugees’

As the U.N. Summit on Refugees and Migrants approaches, President of the European Council Donald Tusk claimed that “the practical capabilities of Europe to host new waves of refugees” and “irregular economic migrants” are nearing maximum capacity.

While Tusk urged fellow G20 member countries to step up their commitments to take in refugees, only 8,268 asylum seekers have been resettled under an E.U. program agreed in July 2015, with a goal of resettling 22,504 people within two years.

Tusk’s statements were timed with the G20 summit taking place in China today, where European leaders will discuss the migrant crisis with Turkish president Recip Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the E.U.-Turkey deal on asylum seekers if all the commitments, especially visa-free travel of Turkish citizens to the E.U., are not met.

European diplomats also said that the G20 summit will agree that refugees are a “global issue” requiring “burden sharing” and concerted action, according to Al Arabiya English.

Civil Society Support for Refugees on the Rise in Australia

Australians have been taking to the streets to protest refugee policies that defy international humanitarian laws, according to media reports.

The prevalent abuse in Australian offshore detention centers on Nauru and Manus Islands has caused a strong public outcry, especially in the wake of the leak of “2,000 official ­incident reports showing the scale of the physical and sexual abuse of refugees dumped on the Pacific island of Nauru.”

The Australian government’s own reports have corroborated the extent of abuse, with the country’s Supreme Court declaring that the protracted detention of asylum seekers, for as long as three years in some cases, breaches the constitution.

A national day of action against detention on Nauru and Manus Islands was held in seven major cities across Australia on August 27, with citizen protesters holding banners that said, “close the camps (and) bring them here,” according to the Huffington Post.

The Australian government announced that it would shut down the offshore camps, but has not yet provided details of the transfer process.

Many staff members at Australia’s offshore detention camps have called for their immediate closure, saying children’s lives are being “destroyed,” according to CNN reports.

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