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Executive Summary for July 21st

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including Austria’s call for Italy to stop ferrying migrants from islands to the mainland, Thailand’s largest-ever human trafficking trial, and the closure of Manus Island’s camp despite refugees refusing to leave.

Published on July 21, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Austria: Refugees Should Stay on Italian Islands

Amid escalating rhetoric over the flow of refugees, Austria’s foreign minister urged Italy not to allow boat-bound migrants off its islands.

Sebastian Kurz said he expects Italy to stop ferrying migrants and asylum-seekers from the islands to the mainland. “Being saved in the Mediterranean cannot be connected with a ticket to central Europe,” Kurz said after a meeting in Vienna on Thursday with his Italian counterpart, Angelino Alfano. He admitted they “were not yet agreed” on measures to stem migration.

Italy has repeatedly warned that it cannot cope with the number of boats crossing the central Mediterranean. Austria has threatened to send troops to its border with Italy if migrants cross overland, although there seems little sign of that happening.

The idea of confining asylum-seekers to Italian islands echoes the situation in Greece since the European Union’s deal with Turkey in March 2016, where most new arrivals are confined in the Greek islands with the aim of fast-tracking their deportation back to Turkey. Reception centers on the islands are heavily overcrowded, with frequent protests against conditions on Lesbos.

Thailand Convicts 62 in Largest Human Trafficking Trial

A Thai court convicted 62 people, including an army general, politicians and police officers, in the country’s biggest human trafficking trial to date.

The trial began in 2015 after dozens of bodies were found in shallow graves in Songkhla near the Malaysian border. Authorities suspected they were Rohingya Muslims who had fled persecution in Myanmar and had been held for ransom by human traffickers.

There are an estimated 5,000 Rohingya in Thailand, many of whom took boats across the Bay of Bengal.

The court in Bangkok found the defendants guilty of charges including trafficking, organized transnational crime, forcible detention leading to death, and rape.

Human rights groups praised the trial, but believe there are many more trafficking camps and mass graves still to be investigated.

“Thai authorities shouldn’t sweep undiscovered mass graves under the rug of this trial,” Amy A. Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, said in a statement. “We documented a massive operation that trafficked tens of thousands of Rohingya during a three-year period.”

Authorities Cut Services to Refugees Refusing to Leave Manus Camp

Authorities are shutting down parts of the Australian-run camp on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island – even while some refugees refuse to vacate.

Power, water, toilets and phone lines were cut off from parts of the detention center, refugees told the Guardian.

Australia and Papua New Guinea set an October 31 deadline to close the center and are trying to move asylum seekers to nearby Lorengau, but many have refused to leave, fearing for their safety.

Australia struck a deal with the United States under Barack Obama to take in many refugees from their two offshore camps, but the deal has been delayed by President Donald Trump’s cap on refugee arrivals.

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