Executive Summary for January 30th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including the drowning of African refugees off the Yemeni coast, the U.S. resuming resettlement from 11 countries with extra security checks and the German president warning against Syrian returns on a Middle East visit.

Published on Jan. 30, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

30 Drown Off Coast of Yemen

At least 30 people drowned when a boat carrying African refugees from war-torn Yemen capsized, purportedly amid a dispute with smugglers.

The boat was taking 101 Ethiopians and 51 Somalis across the Gulf of Aden to Djibouti, stated the U.N.’s migration agency, IOM. The agency said smugglers tried to extort more money from the passengers at sea and gunfire broke out.

Despite the war raging in Yemen, refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa continue to arrive in the country seeking passage north to the prosperous Gulf. Some have become trapped in Yemen amid the conflict and taken boats back to the African continent, while some Yemenis have also fled along the same route.

IOM said 87,000 people took boats to Yemen in 2017, with at least 111 recorded deaths at sea. Last March, dozens of Somali refugees trying to flee Yemen were killed when their boat came under helicopter fire off the Yemeni coast. U.N. investigators later found the Saudi-led coalition responsible for the attack.

U.S. Resumes Refugee Resettlement With ‘More Security Checks’

The U.S. will resume refugee resettlement from 11 countries it placed under “security review” three months ago.

While never officially named, the countries are known to be Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Around 40 percent of refugees resettled in the U.S. come from those countries.

U.S. secretary of homeland security Kirstjen Nielsen said refugees from those countries would face additional security checks and the list of included countries would be periodically reviewed. They “seek to prevent the program from being exploited by terrorists, criminals and fraudsters,” she said.

Nielsen declined to provide details of the security checks. Officials told the New York Times they included “in-depth” interviews and “deep-dive” background checks. It already takes around two years for a refugee to be vetted for resettlement in the U.S. and some refugee advocates are concerned additional checks will further slow down the process.

Since the review was announced in October, the number of refugees coming to the U.S. has plummeted to around 6,000.

This includes just 791 Muslims, compared to 14,496 Muslim refugees in the same period last year, according to analysis by the International Rescue Committee. The current numbers put the U.S. on track to admit 21,300 refugees this year, well below the historically low official cap of 45,000.

German President Warns Against Syrian Returns in Middle East Visit

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned against mass return of refugees to Syria on a visit to the Middle East.

The president said that “conditions aren’t right” in most of Syria for returns after meeting Lebanese president Michel Aoun, who has repeatedly called for the immediate return of refugees from his country, where around one-quarter of the population are Syrian refugees.

In Steinmeier’s own country, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which entered parliament after last year’s election, has also called for the return of Syrians from Germany.

Steinmeier also visited Jordan and met with refugees in Azraq camp and German troops carrying out surveillance missions in Syria and Iraq. He expressed “huge respect and admiration” to the country hosting refugees. Asked about Jordan’s restrictive policies, the president acknowledged “much can be improved … but I believe it’s not justified to come with big complaints against Jordan.”

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