Executive Summary for May 23rd

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including the U.N. criticizing Algeria’s mass deportations and migrant pushbacks, the death of a refugee on Manus Island, and a new survey of Rohingya refugees shows their concerns about repatriation.

Published on May 23, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

U.N. Calls Algeria Expulsions ‘Deeply Alarming’

The U.N. called Algeria’s mass expulsions of migrants, some of whom have been abandoned near the desert border, “deeply alarming.”

Algeria has stepped up expulsions and pushbacks at its border with Niger in recent months. U.N. spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani described expelled migrants dumped in the desert and others detained in “inhuman and degrading” conditions on Nigerien military bases. A team from the U.N. human rights office (OHCHR) interviewed 25 expelled migrants in Niger last month.

“Algeria is not responsible for the population of other states,” Algerian interior ministry official Hassen Kacimi told Reuters. “So whoever wants to cry over the outgoing migrants just [has] to put their hand in their pocket.”

A recent Refugees Deeply investigation detailed how European policy experiments in Niger have had unintended regional consequences. Niger now fears becoming a dumping ground for unwanted Africans.

Sanou, a Gambian construction worker, worked in Algeria for five years before he was swiftly arrested, stripped of his belongings and dumped in the desert. Several of the men he was with died on the 15-mile (25-km) march to find shelter. He now faces going home empty-handed but refuses to despair. “A man’s downfall is not his end,” he said.

Rohingya Refugee Dies on Manus Island

A 32-year-old Rohingya refugee died after jumping from a bus on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, where he was confined under Australia’s boat-deterrence policy.

He had spent nearly five years on the island and had previously received medical treatment in Australia for an unspecified condition, before being sent back to Manus, the Refugee Action Coalition said in a statement. He was the seventh refugee to die on Manus, they said.

“The refugees on Manus are deeply saddened and horrified by the news of another friend’s death,” said Behrouz Boochani, a journalist and refugee also held on Manus. He said the man suffered from seizures and held Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton responsible for his death.

Australia shut the former detention center on Manus last October, prompting a standoff with refugees. They moved into new accommodation, which Amnesty International warned in a report last week does not have adequate health care. Refugees no longer have any access to trauma and counseling services, the report warned.

Despite Talk of Returns to Myanmar, Rohingya Left in the Dark

As Myanmar continues to claim that Rohingya refugees can return from Bangladesh, a new survey highlights refugees’ exclusion from repatriation discussions.

The survey of 1,700 refugees in Bangladesh by the Xchange Foundation, supported by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, found that 51.6 percent had heard of the repatriation agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Of those who had heard of the repatriation deal, 94.5 percent had no idea why it was happening. And 99 percent said they would go back only upon certain conditions, with most referring to the right to citizenship.

Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since last year amid a ferocious military campaign in Rakhine state. Myanmar says it has approved around 2,200 people to return from Bangladesh. The military has also recently resumed broadcasts ordering around 6,000 refugees camping in no-man’s land between the borders to leave “the area under Myanmar’s jurisdiction or face prosecution.”

Refugee leaders have presented a list of demands to the U.N. before they will consider returning, including justice for atrocities and citizenship rights. On a recent visit to refugee camps in Bangladesh, USAID administrator Mark Green remarked how fearful refugees are of return.

“That reinforces the importance here of clear signs of sincerity of the government’s stated position of welcoming back Rohingya in a safe, secure and dignified manner,” he said.

“We would strongly encourage the government to take those concrete steps which are a demonstration of the ability for Rohingya to return under those conditions,” Green said.

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