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Executive Summary for August 24th

We review the latest refugee issues, including reports that Canadian premier Trudeau is fretting over Canada’s refugee policy, the U.K. foreign minister vowing support for the Libyan coast guard and the Italian police clashing with refugees evicted from a Rome squat.

Published on Aug. 24, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Canada Fears Border Surge Could End Support for Refugee Stance – Sources

Canada reportedly fears a refugee surge could dominate the next elections. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is concerned at political pressure to overturn Canada’s welcoming policy.

Senior Canadian officials worry that Latin American asylum seekers will cross from the U.S. in large numbers. Many citizens from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras face losing their status in the U.S. in January and are looking to Canada. The number crossing the border into Canada from the U.S. has already tripled in July and August, although daily arrivals dropped this week.

“There is concern we’ll see a huge increase, mostly from Central America,” one anonymous source told Reuters. “The question is, which group is next, and how are we going to deal with it, and what is the impact on Canadians?”

Many of the new arrivals are going to French-speaking Quebec, where their presence is triggering a reaction from anti-migrant groups. The Trudeau administration could clamp down on crossings, but not without risking its reputation as a supporter of refugees.

“The government is in a real quandary over this,” another source familiar with official thinking told Reuters.

Some observers point to comments made by Trudeau on August 23 as evidence of a hardening stance: “We are an open and welcoming country because citizens have confidence in our immigration and refugee system and we have been able to continue to defend and protect the integrity of that system.”

British Minister Pledges Support for Libyan Coast Guard to Stop Illegal Immigration

The U.K. foreign minister has pledged support for the Libyan coast guard. During a visit to Tripoli, Boris Johnson promised help to the U.N.-backed government.

The foreign minister said Britain would support the administration of Fayez al-Sarraj to “reduce the number of illegal migrants heading for Europe.”

Johnson said his country backs “practical efforts … to ensure the Libyan coast guard can secure their own borders, reducing the number of illegal migrants heading for Europe.”

The announcement was sharply attacked by humanitarian groups, which accuse the Libyan coast guard of rights abuses. The medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres tweeted: “Is the @foreignoffice happy to sweep the appalling human cost of its deterrence policies on migration under the carpet?”

Italy already faces intense criticism for its material support for the Libyan coast guard, which is accused of links to the same militias that have smuggled people and abused migrants.

Refugee Squatters Blasted With Water Cannon in Rome

Italian police used water cannon and batons to clear a refugee protest in Rome. Asylum seekers ordered to leave a nearby squat had gathered to protest in a small square.

Television pictures showed clashes between riot police and asylum seekers. Refugees had been in residence in the square since Saturday, when some 800 squatters were evicted from an adjacent building they had occupied for five years.

A banner on the abandoned office building reads: “We are refugees, not terrorists” in Italian. Police said most of the squatters, many of them Eritrean, had refused to accept lodgings offered by the city.

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