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Executive Summary for May 18th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including a new investigation into the killing of migrants in Gambia, the U.S. pushing for a safe third country agreement with Mexico and Bosnia reinforcing its border as a new Balkan route grows.

Published on May 18, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Rights Groups Blame Ex-Gambian Leader for Migrant Killings

Human rights groups urged Ghana to extradite and prosecute Gambia’s exiled former leader, Yahya Jammeh, over the killing of more than 50 Ghanaian and Nigerian migrants.

In 2005, the group of migrants took a boat from neighboring Senegal hoping to join a larger ship that was heading for Europe, but instead they landed on the shores of Gambia.

According to a new investigation by Human Rights Watch, officials mistook them for mercenaries and they were killed by the paramilitary “Junglers” unit, contradicting the official narrative that they were killed without government knowledge.

“The West African migrants weren’t murdered by rogue elements but by a paramilitary death squad taking orders from President Jammeh,” said HRW’s Reed Brody. Jammeh seized power in 1994 and was ousted after an election last year, when he went into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

U.S. Pushes Mexico for ‘Safe Third Country’ Agreement

United States and Mexican officials are discussing the possibility of a “safe third country” agreement that would allow the U.S. to turn away asylum seekers at the border.

The Trump administration, hosting talks with Mexican officials in Washington this week, wants to replicate a deal it made with Canada in 2002. The agreement would require asylum seekers arriving at the border to claim asylum in Mexico.

Human rights advocates have warned that the country’s asylum system is already struggling under a growing number of claims and that migrants and refugees are at risk of trafficking and kidnap in Mexico. Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First called Washington’s proposal “merely the latest tactic to shut the door on those who are desperate to live in freedom and safety.”

Mexican officials told the New York Times that the Obama administration had also tried to reach a safe third country agreement, and now the Trump administration was even more insistent. The newspaper noted that the timing of the proposal is not propitious – President Enrique Pena Nieto is unlikely to make concessions to Donald Trump ahead of Mexico’s presidential elections in July.

Bosnia Reinforces Borders as New Balkan Route Swells

Bosnia and Herzegovina has deployed police to reinforce its borders with Serbia and Montenegro after a surge in the number of people seeking passage to Europe through the Balkan country.

Officials vowed to turn back anyone entering illegally, while pledging to treat them humanely, noting Bosnia’s recent experience of war and mass displacement.

Around 4,000 people have crossed into Bosnia this year compared to 755 throughout 2017. The Balkan route that was shut down by Europe in 2016 bypassed the country, but with stricter controls between Serbia and Hungary, a new route has emerged through Bosnia into Croatia, which is a member of the European Union.

In addition, people trapped in Serbia since 2016 are now taking their chances by crossing to Bosnia, while Iranians are arriving because of a new visa-free regime with Serbia, Reuters reported.

Some are able to dodge Croatian border controls and continue their journey, while others are stuck in Bosnia, with many sleeping in parks and tents. One makeshift tented settlement in the northwest of the country was dismantled by authorities this week. The International Organization for Migration has urged Bosnia to provide adequate shelter and local officials have called for central government help.

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