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Executive Summary for June 12th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including the U.S. attorney general narrowing grounds for asylum, Spain offering safe harbor to hundreds of people turned away by Italy and Malta, and a Rohingya advocate awarded the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.

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

U.S. Attorney General Narrows Grounds for Asylum

The U.S. attorney general ruled that a Salvadoran woman subjected to domestic violence does not qualify for asylum, in a decision with potentially far-reaching consequences.

“The prototypical refugee flees her home country because the government has persecuted her,” Jeff Sessions wrote in his ruling. “An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family or other personal circumstances. Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.”

In the U.S., the attorney general can intervene in immigration cases. Sessions said a 2014 Board of Immigration Appeals case that set a precedent for women fleeing gender-based violence to claim asylum in the U.S. was “wrongly decided.”

Jason Cone, executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the U.S., called the decision a “death sentence,” especially for Central Americans fleeing many forms of violence with little protection from their governments.

“Every day along the migration route we treat and counsel patients from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, who have survived the types of violence our organization usually sees in war zones,” he said. “These people are legitimately in fear for their lives and cannot safely go back to their home countries.”

Spain Offers Safe Harbor to Hundreds Stranded at Sea by Italy, Malta

The Spanish prime minister offered to take in an NGO rescue ship with 629 people on board that has been stranded at sea for three days after Italy and Malta refused to allow it to dock.

It will take another three days for the Aquarius to make the voyage to the port of Valencia. Crew with the NGO SOS Mediterranee warned of the dangers to seven pregnant women and 120 minors on board, as well as others injured at sea.

Italy and Malta are both a few hours away but have refused to allow the boat to dock. Italy’s new right-wing interior minister Matteo Salvini declared the refusal a “victory” on Twitter and warned that another NGO at sea, Sea-Watch, would not be allowed to dock.

However, an Italian coast-guard boat carrying 937 people rescued at sea appeared to be headed to Italy without obstacle. “Why do 629 people on Aquarius still have to suffer? NGOs do nothing differently to the coast guard,” Sea-Watch wrote on Twitter. “All a political stunt … at the expense of people in distress?”

Rohingya Advocate Awarded Aurora Humanitarian Prize

An advocate for Rohingya rights was awarded the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, an annual humanitarian prize on behalf of survivors of the Armenian genocide.

Lawyer Kyaw Hla Aung has been working on education and human rights for Rohingya in Myanmar for several decades and spent 12 years in prison.

At the ceremony in Armenia, he emphasized that the lack of citizenship for Rohingya is at the heart of their persecution. He said it took him 20 days to reach Armenia because of travel restrictions.

He was awarded $100,000 and given $1 million to donate to other organizations; he chose Doctors Without Borders, Mercy Malaysia and the International Catholic Migration Commission.

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