Executive Summary for November 3rd

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including more deaths in the Mediterranean, New Zealand’s offer to take in asylum seekers detained offshore by Australia and a move to clarify which spending on refugees counts as development aid.

Published on Nov. 3, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Seven Dead in Central Mediterranean; Boat Capsizes En Route to Greece

European naval forces found the bodies of seven people in a boat adrift off the coast of Libya, while another vessel capsized en route from Turkey to Greece, leaving at least one person dead.

The Italian coast guard also rescued about 900 people coming from north Africa on eight different missions this week, while Libyan authorities intercepted 300 others and returned them to Libya. The rescues follow a steep drop in the number of refugee boats coming from the country over the summer following European efforts to stem the flow.

The Greek coast guard rescued 13 people after their boat sank off the Aegean island of Kalymnos. They also found the body of one woman and believe more could be missing. The number of refugee boats making for Greece has grown in recent months, with about 200 people arriving each day.

In all, some 151,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea in 2017, while at least 2,800 have perished along the way, according to the United Nations’ migration agency.

New Zealand Offers to Take in 150 Refugees Amid Manus Standoff

New Zealand reiterated its offer to take in 150 refugees from Australia’s two offshore detention centers, amid a standoff over the closure of the facility on Manus Island.

Although authorities closed the center on Oct. 31, around 600 refugees are refusing to relocate to other parts of the Papua New Guinea island and remain holed up at the camp without food, water or power.

The U.N. refugee agency urged Australia and Papua New Guinea on Nov. 2 to “immediately de-escalate an increasingly tense and unstable situation” on Manus.

The agency said the sites to which the asylum seekers were meant to be relocated did not have safety fences and at least one was still a construction site. Local officials have told UNHCR that tensions with locals, who do not feel they have been properly consulted about the refugees’ relocation, are on the rise.

New Zealand’s new prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said she would make an offer to Australian premier Malcolm Turnbull to take in some of the asylum seekers when the two leaders meet on Nov. 5.

Australia has refused past offers from New Zealand, saying that refugees who become residents of New Zealand would be able to enter Australia without a visa. As part of a controversial deterrence policy, the Australian government wants to ensure any asylum seeker trying to reach the country by boat is never allowed in.

“Australia remains responsible for the well-being of all those moved to Papua New Guinea until adequate, long-term solutions outside the country are found,” the UNHCR said in a statement.

Clearer Rules on Counting Refugee Support as ‘Development Aid’

The body that sets regulations on international aid spending has clarified rules on the types of expenditure on hosting refugees that can be classified as development aid. The Development Assistance Committee met in Paris this week.

Some donor countries have started to count the cost of supporting refugees domestically as part of their aid budgets – causing concern that this will divert funds from development overseas.

The DAC is a committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of 35 mainly wealthy nations; 30 are DAC members.

It clarified that hosting refugees for the first year after their asylum application is submitted can be classified as official development assistance (ODA), but spending on rejected or “in transit” asylum seekers does not. For example, border security and the detention and return of rejected asylum seekers should not count as development assistance.

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