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Executive Summary for February 12th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including the disappearance of Ethiopian migrants off the coast of Yemen, the U.N. refugee agency’s warning about sexual violence on the Greek islands and refugees held offshore by Australia resettled in the U.S.

Published on Feb. 12, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Ethiopians Feared Drowned off Yemen Coast

More than 20 people are feared dead after smugglers forced them to swim ashore off the coast of Yemen. They were among hundreds of African migrants trying to reach Yemen by boat despite the devastating war in the country.

Around 600 mostly Ethiopian migrants came ashore in four boats late last week. Passengers on one boat said at least 22 people had gone missing after smugglers pushed them off the boat.

Officials from the International Organization for Migration said the coordinated arrivals were unusual, but the boat route to Yemen remains busy despite the conflict in the impoverished country. More than 87,000 migrants, mostly Africans, came to Yemen in 2017. Most pass through en route to wealthy Gulf states.

A recent surge in fighting in Yemen has displaced more than 85,000 people in the last 10 weeks, according the U.N. refugee agency.

UNHCR: Sexual Violence Rife in Overcrowded Greek Island Shelters

The U.N. refugee agency expressed concern about levels of sexual violence in refugee shelters on the Greek islands.

UNHCR said around 180 asylum seekers have reported experiencing sexual or gender-based violence since arriving in Greece and warned that stigma means actual numbers could be far higher.

The agency said facilities at the Moria hotspot on Lesbos and Vathy on Samos were “no-go zones” for women and children after dark. One woman told UNHCR she had not showered for two months out of fear of being attacked.

Despite recent efforts to transfer asylum seekers to mainland Greece, facilities on the island remain overcrowded, understaffed and insecure, the agency said. Human Rights Watch has also recently documented dangers to female refugees on the islands.

More Refugees Depart Australia Offshore Camps for U.S.

Twenty-two refugees left Australia’s offshore refugee center on Nauru Island for resettlement in the U.S. Around 110 refugees have come to the U.S. under an Obama-era deal with Australia.

Some 2,000 asylum seekers remain on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. Australia closed the center on Manus in November, moving refugees to new facilities that Amnesty International recently described as “unsafe.”

Australia maintains a controversial deterrence policy for asylum seekers who try to reach the country by boat, often justified by policymakers by pointing to the country’s substantial refugee resettlement program.

Government statistics showed that Australia accepted 24,162 refugees in the 2016–17 financial year, more than ever recorded under its annual humanitarian program.

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