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Executive Summary for June 30th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including the partial U.S. travel and refugee ban coming into effect, Japan’s proposal to detain asylum-seeking students and trainees, and more deaths reported in the Sahara.

Published on June 30, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Trump Halts Resettlement of Refugees Without Close American Relatives

The Trump administration’s travel ban and suspension of refugee resettlement came into effect late on Thursday – followed by the first of several expected legal cases against the latest incarnation of the order.

President Trump’s March executive order was partially reinstated by a Supreme Court ruling. It allows the United States administration to ban travelers from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and halt refugee resettlement for 120 days; but it exempts people having a “bona fide relationship” with a person or entity in the U.S.

The state of Hawaii filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge to clarify the Supreme Court ruling, arguing that the administration had interpreted “bona fide relationship” too narrowly by not including American grandparents, fiancés and other relatives in the criteria. The State Department since reversed its guidance on fiancés, saying that they would in fact count as a “close family member.”

Administration officials also clarified that the relationship between refugees and U.S. resettlement agencies would not qualify as a “bona fide” relationship, likely inviting further legal challenges from refugee advocates. The new rules will apply after the number of refugees hits Donald Trump’s cap of 50,000 for fiscal year 2017, which is likely to happen next week.

“The administration’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s order is legally and morally wrong,” said Mark Hetfield, president and chief executive of HIAS, a Jewish non-profit group working in refugee resettlement. “While the Supreme Court said that approved refugees with ‘bona fide relationships’ with U.S. entities should not be turned away, the administration plans to turn them away, respecting some ‘bona fide’ relationships, but ignoring others.”

For now, refugees who already have travel dates up to July 6 will be able to enter the country, as will travelers from the list of barred countries who have a visa.

Meanwhile, the White House may consider a proposal to move the federal department that oversees refugee resettlement from the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security, an official told CNN. Anne Richard, former head of bureau of Population Refugees and Migration, said such a move would be a “huge mistake” and reflected an “imperfect understanding” of the bureau’s function.

Japan May Detain Asylum Seekers on Student, Trainee Visas

Foreign students and trainees who claim asylum in Japan may be held in immigration detention centers while their cases are assessed, Reuters reports.

Japan says the rapid rise in the number of people entering on trainee and student visas and then seeking refuge once they arrive shows the asylum system is being abused. The number of trainees claiming asylum increased 26-fold between 2012 and 2016 while the number of asylum-seeking students increased 14-fold.

An earlier Reuters investigation found some Japanese companies were meeting soaring labor demand by recruiting asylum seekers from Africa and Asia.

A justice ministry official said the government is considering curbing asylum seekers’ residence and work permits, as well as detention.

Japan has one of the lowest refugee recognition rates in the world – last year the country recognized just 28 refugees out of 10,901 applications.

More Than 50 Presumed Dead in Sahara

Some 52 people are thought to have died after being stranded by smugglers in the Sahara desert, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

A group of 24 people managed to alert authorities in Niger after walking through the desert, but one of the group died shortly after they were found. The survivors said they had been among 75 people traveling north in three vehicles.

The search for the remainder of the group was held up by a sandstorm and their bodies have yet to be found.

Earlier this month more than 40 people were reported to have died of thirst after being abandoned in the Sahara. The visibility of deaths in the desert – believed to be one of the world’s most fatal migration routes – has increased since the IOM launched a search-and-rescue operation in the area in April.

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