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Executive Summary for November 10th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including a U.N. watchdog’s damning report on Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, a proposal from Germany’s far-right party to return Syrian displaced people and two refugees elected to local office in the U.S.

Published on Nov. 10, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

U.N. Committee Condemns Australia’s Treatment of Asylum Seekers

The United Nations Human Rights Committee slammed Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, urging the country to reduce mandatory detention and not send them back into danger.

“We do not disagree with Australia’s right to adopt a tough policy – for instance on resettlement,” said the committee vice-chair, Yuval Shany. “What they cannot do is treat asylum seekers as criminals and detain them, and they cannot absolve themselves of their duty not to send them back to danger.”

In its monitoring report, the committee expressed concern about hundreds of asylum seekers held in offshore centers in Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and the Pacific island of Nauru.

Australia officially close the Manus center on Oct. 31, shutting off services to the site. But more than 500 asylum seekers stayed put, refusing to move to alternative accommodation out of fear they would not be properly protected.

Some 20 people have left the camp since Papua New Guinea (PNG) issued a Nov. 11 deadline and warned they could be removed by force, Reuters reported, but most vowed to remain. PNG police have started dismantling parts of the center.

The U.N. refugee agency urged PNG against forcefully relocating the asylum seekers and warned that they were becoming increasingly vulnerable. “After over a week with no provision of food and water, and poor sanitation without electricity, their physical and mental health is precarious,” a UNHCR statement said.

German Far Right Calls for Talks With Assad to Return Refugees

Germany’s far-right party called on the government to start talks with Syria to repatriate the half-a-million Syrian refugees living in the European country.

Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered the German parliament for the first time after elections in September. It is the third-largest party in the Bundestag.

In its first policy proposal, AfD leaders Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel called for immediate talks with the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria to return refugees to “safe areas.” The U.N. says conditions in Syria are not conducive to refugees being able to return in safety and dignity.

The AfD proposal also called for Syrian children to be taught the Syrian curriculum in Germany.

The country’s Greens party, which is currently in talks to join a coalition government, slammed the proposal as “irresponsible, inhumane and heartless.”

Refugees Elected In U.S.

Local elections in the United States saw two refugees take public office. The new mayor of the state capital of Montana came to the U.S. having fled Liberia, while a former Vietnamese refugee was elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates.

Wilmot Collins, a child protection specialist, fled Liberia’s civil war in the 1990s. He lost two brothers in the conflict. When he and his wife reached the U.S. they were near starvation, he told the Helena Independent Record. Collins will be the first black mayor of the city of Helena since the 19th century.

Kathy Tran came to the U.S. from Vietnam when she was a child. Shortly after Donald Trump was inaugurated, she named her fourth child Elise, inspired by Ellis Island, the historic gateway for millions of immigrants to the U.S.the Washington Post reported. She is the first Vietnamese-American elected to state office in Virginia.

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