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Executive Summary for August 22nd

We review the latest refugee issues including reports that a militia is stopping migrant boats from departing Libya, the leak of a letter from Nauru claiming asylum seekers are unable to get abortions and the eviction of a building squatted by asylum seekers in Rome.

Published on Aug. 22, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Reuters: Libyan Militia Prevents Migrant Boats Leaving Sabratha

A Libyan militia is blocking migrants from sailing from a significant departure point, contributing to a drop in boats reaching Italy, sources told Reuters.

Sources in Sabratha, a port city on Libya’s western coast, told the news agency that group consists of hundreds of “civilians, policemen and army figures,” who are conducting a campaign led by “former mafia boss.” One source called the group Brigade 48.

They said the group was running a detention center to hold the migrants who were turned back.

Migrants told the International Organization for Migration “it was very difficult to depart from Sabratha. There are people stopping the boats before they set out, and if they get out to sea, they’re immediately sent back,” said Flavio di Giacomo, an IOM spokesman in Rome.

There has been a seasonal drop in boats arriving in Italy – 50 percent lower this July compared to July 2016 – that has been welcomed by Italian politicians working with the U.N.-backed Libyan government to stem migration flows.

Chris Catrambone, from the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, told Reuters that smugglers last week shifted departures to east of Tripoli, near Al Khoms.

Pregnant Asylum Seekers Denied Medical Transfer to Australia for Abortion

Four pregnant asylum seekers at Australia’s offshore detention center on Nauru have been denied travel to the mainland for abortions, according to a leaked letter from a camp employee.

The letter from the anonymous employee, obtained by BuzzFeed News, said around 15 women had traveled to Australia to terminate pregnancies in the past two years.

Previously, they had to seek approval from the International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), a health contractor for the Australian government, and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

But a new policy requires pregnant women to now seek approval from the Overseas Medical Referral (OMR) committee at Nauru Hospital.

This has created a de facto ban on terminations for refugees, as the OMR would risk breaking Nauruan law by approving abortions, since the procedure is outlawed on the Pacific island.

The letter warned that women might “self-harm, attempt suicide or attempt a home abortion” as a result of the policy change.

Staff members call the change a “political effort” to stop asylum seekers from seeking medical treatment in Australia, according to the Guardian.

Italy Evicts Hundreds of Asylum-Seekers Squatting in Rome Building

Italian police have evicted around 800 people, mostly asylum seekers from Eritrea and Ethiopia, who had been squatting in an former office block for several years.

Hundreds of police were deployed to remove the migrants on August 19, while others found themselves locked out of the six-story building.

Their eviction was ordered in 2015, and the building, located near the city’s main railway station, has since been bought for redevelopment. Migrants first occupied the space in 2013.

Rome has no state-run shelters for refugees, leaving many to camp out in the streets of the city until they are able to file an asylum claim and receive lodging.

UNHCR hopes local and national authorities can find an immediate solution for the people currently sleeping under the stars and ensure adequate integration measures for those with a right to international protection,” the UNHCR office in Italy said in a statement.

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