Executive Summary for October 5th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including gathering support for a new German immigration law, Rohingya influx seeing Bangladesh fell forest to pitch tents and Amnesty calling on E.U. to pause Afghan returns amid worsening violence.

Published on Oct. 5, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

New Immigration Law Tops Agenda as Germany Seeks Coalition

Germany’s president has called for a new immigration law. The proposal is the clearest sign yet of the increased importance of migration following German elections.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany must be able to distinguish between economic migrants and refugees in need of protection. His speech was an unusual foray into policy for a largely ceremonial presidency.

Germany’s anti-immigrant far right made gains in recent elections and Chancellor Angela Merkel must now piece together a new coalition. Migration remains among the principle obstacles, with some potential partners favoring a cap on new arrivals.

Merkel opposes this, as do prospective partners in a new government, such as the Greens. The liberal Free Democrats (FDP), another party expected to join the coalition, advocates a Canadian-style points system to allow migrants to plug gaps in Germany’s labor market.

However, senior members of the Christian Democrat Union, which is part of Merkel’s own alliance, insist that a migrant cap is necessary to prevent absolute numbers from rising.

Bavarian economy minister Ilse Aigner demanded an annual cap of 200,000 immigrants to prevent any recurrence of the 2015 crisis, “so that no back doors stay open and so there is no lack of clarity.”

Bangladesh to Fell Forest to Make Room for Rohingya Refugees

Bangladesh is to clear forest near its border with Myanmar to accommodate Rohingya refugees. With half a million people having crossed into Bangladesh, 400 hectares of forest land are urgently needed, officials said.

“The government allocated 2,000 acres when the number of refugees was nearly 400,000,” Mohammad Shah Kamal, Bangladesh’s secretary of disaster management and relief, told Reuters.

“Now the numbers have gone up by more than 100,000 and people are still coming. So, the government has to allocate 1,000 acres (400 hectares) of forest land.”

Aid workers will put up 150,000 tents once the trees are felled. In the past months there have been run-ins between wildlife, whose habitat is threatened, and the newly arrived refugee population. Wild elephants recently trampled two people to death.

Aid agencies and government officials remain adamant that more land is needed as the half-million arrivals since August join the 300,000 Rohingya already in the country, with more expected to flee their homeland.

“In over 20 years as a humanitarian worker I’ve never seen a situation like this, where people are so desperate for basic assistance and conditions so dire,” said Unni Krishnan, director of Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit.

Rights Groups Call For E.U. Moratorium on Afghan Returns

Amnesty International has called for a moratorium on returning failed Afghan asylum seekers from Europe. The human rights group said the returns risked serious harm to those affected.

The report said returns had tripled from 3,290 in 2015 to 9,460 in 2016, despite heightened security threats in Afghanistan.

“In their determination to increase the number of deportations, European governments are implementing a policy that is reckless and unlawful,” said Amnesty’s Anna Shea.

Afghans have been second only to Syrians in seeking protection in Europe, with 108,455 first-time asylum seekers registered in the E.U. in the 12 months to June.

Some Afghans have been deported after failed claims while many others have been pushed to accept voluntary departure packages in order to receive small cash compensation.

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