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Executive Summary for May 9th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including a case brought against Italy at the European Court of Human Rights by shipwreck survivors, the separation of children from families at the U.S. border, and Germany approving resumption of family reunification.

Published on May 9, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Italy’s Deals With Libya Face European Court Challenge

Survivors of a deadly Mediterranean shipwreck brought a case against Italy to the European Court of Human Rights. The case accuses Italy of violating international law through its deals with Libya to keep migrants from reaching Europe.

Seventeen Nigerians survived when their ship sank in November 2017, killing at least 20 people. Two of them were returned by the Libyan coast guard to Libya, where they experienced torture and abuse before being repatriated to Nigeria.

In 2012 the European Court of Human Rights found Italy’s pushback of migrant boats to Libya illegal. The new case argues that Italy is responsible for the human rights violations due to its “effective control” over Libyan rescues and the fact that abuse of migrants inside Libya is well documented.

“Using the Libyan coast guard as a proxy to turn back migrant boats is just a new way of camouflaging (Italy’s) strategy of fighting irregular migration in the Mediterranean by trapping them in what the Italian foreign ministry itself has qualified as ‘the hell’ of Libya,” said Violeta Moreno-Lax of the Global Legal Action Network, one of several humanitarian groups backing the case, which is expected to last several years.

The Libyan coast guard intercepted hundreds of migrants over the weekend and took them back to shore, where many are held in detention centers that Medecins Sans Frontieres recently said were in a dire and deteriorating condition.

U.S. to Separate More Children From Families at Border

The U.S. will stop exempting parents from prosecution when they enter the country irregularly with their children, a move likely to separate more children from their families.

U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions has introduced a “zero tolerance” policy for people caught crossing the border outside of formal checkpoints. He said this would also apply to parents, resulting in their children being taken into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Last month, the U.S. government admitted it had lost track of almost 1,500 unaccompanied children who were placed with adult sponsors.

Under the zero tolerance policy, 30,000 people have been referred for prosecution since October 2017, an increase on 18,642 prosecutions during the whole of the previous fiscal year. Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First called the increase in family separations, which are being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union, a “new low in contempt for refugees and migrants.”

Germany to Resume Family Reunifications From August

The German government approved the resumption of family reunification for refugees with subsidiary protection starting in August.

The right to bring close relatives to Germany was suspended in 2016 as the country shifted to grant most Syrians temporary protection rather than full refugee status.

The issue became a sticking point in German coalition negotiations following elections last year. Under the eventual compromise, family reunifications were capped at 1,000 per month and limited to spouses, unmarried children and the parents of children already in Germany.

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