September 13, 2017

The White House is considering dropping the refugee limit for the next year below 50,000, a quota that hasn't been seen since at least 1980, The New York Times reports. In a meeting Tuesday, Homeland Security officials reportedly suggested a limit of 40,000.

"When you get down to some of the numbers that are being talked about, you get down to a program of really nugatory levels," said David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee. "It's not an exaggeration to say the very existence of refugee resettlement as a core aspect of the American story, and America's role as a global leader in this area, is at stake."

In addition to a ban on travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, Trump dropped the cap on refugees to 50,000 days after taking office. He will soon need to announce a new cap, as required by the Refugee Act of 1980. But since the Refugee Act was passed, the average quota for refugees has been 94,000. In 1986, it hit its lowest recent level under former President Ronald Reagan, who set a cap of 67,000.

There are a number of major refugee crises unfolding around the world: An estimated 5 million people have fled from Syria and recently close to 400,000 Rohingya people have left Myanmar due to what appears to be an unfolding genocide. But supporters of lower refugee admittance numbers argue that the most useful way to help displaced people isn't through resettlement in America.

"One senior administration official involved in the internal debate over refugees described the move to curtail admissions as part of a broader rethinking of how the United States deals with migrants, based on the idea that it is more effective and affordable to help displaced people outside the nation’s borders than within them, given the backlog of asylum seekers and other immigrants already in the country hoping to stay," The New York Times writes.

"Refugee resettlement is just a way of making ourselves feel better," argued the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, Mark Krikorian. Jeva Lange

September 2, 2017
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"Roughly 60,000 [refugees from Myanmar] have arrived in Bangladesh since the violence erupted on Aug. 25," United Nations Refugee Agency representative Vivian Tan said Saturday, a markedly higher estimate than the 27,000 the U.N. reported Thursday. As many as 20,000 refugees are believed to be stuck at the river which separates the two countries.

The refugees are members of the Rohingya Muslim community, an ethnic minority group in Myanmar. Violence broke out after Rohingya militants clashed with Myanmar security forces, and the civilians who fled report being attacked by militants, government troops, and Buddhist mobs alike. Human Rights Watch took satellite photos of one village which appear to show "complete and total" destruction, with 99 percent of buildings ruined.

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) on Saturday suspended food aid in Myanmar's Rakhine State, the area the refugees are leaving, citing safety concerns. "We are coordinating with the authorities to resume distributions for all affected communities as soon as possible," said a WFP statement, "including for any people newly affected by the current unrest."

"We fled to Bangladesh to save our lives," one refugee told The Associated Press. "The military and extremist Rakhine are burning us, burning us, killing us, setting our village on fire," he added. "The military destroyed everything. After killing some Rohingya, the military burned their houses and shops." Bonnie Kristian

August 9, 2017
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More and more refugees are crossing into Canada from the United States, and the Canadian military is now building a camp to house 500 asylum-seekers in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec.

From Jan. 1 to June 30, more than 3,300 people made their way from the U.S. to Quebec, the BBC reports, and there's nowhere for them to stay as their asylum applications are being processed. This camp, near Plattsburgh, New York, will be built by the military, and have heated tents fitted with flooring and electricity.

Francine Dupuis, an employee at Praida, a program that helps refugees, told the BBC that in July alone, 1,200 additional people crossed into Quebec, and about 90 percent were from Haiti. They arrived a month after President Trump announced that the U.S. is ending its program that extended temporary protection to Haitian citizens following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. Catherine Garcia

May 9, 2017

Leaked audiotapes reveal that Italian authorities delayed responding to a capsized refugee boat's pleas for help, resulting in the drowning of 268 Syrians, including 60 children, The Washington Post reports.

The 2013 shipwreck has long been considered one of the most tragic examples of the dangerous crossing migrants attempt in order to reach Europe. The ship had at least 480 passengers on board when it left northwestern Libya for the Italian island of Lampedusa, but it capsized 61 nautical miles south of its goal. Italian and Maltese ships were able to save some of the passengers, but the majority of the refugees drowned before responders reached the boat.

On Monday, the Italian magazine L'Espresso published tapes showing that Italian authorities had known the refugee ship was in trouble hours beforehand but refused to respond, The Washington Post reports:

... [At] 12:39 p.m., passenger Mohanned Jammo, a doctor who survived the shipwreck and who had a smartphone with him, calls the headquarters of the Italian coast guard in Rome asking for help. "The boat is going down" and "water is coming into it," he says. A woman can be heard asking for his position, which he gives.

At 1:17 p.m., Jammo calls again, asking if the coast guard has sent anyone. He is answered by a man who tells him to call Malta instead. "You are near Malta," the man claims. In truth, the ship was 61 nautical miles from Lampedusa — but 118 nautical miles from Malta.

In a third conversation, at 1:48 p.m., Jammo again calls the coast guard, saying he called Maltese authorities and was told he is closer to Lampedusa. "Lampedusa is Italy?" he asks. "We are dying, please." [The Washington Post]

In another conversation from 4:44 p.m., an Italian coast guard officer tells the Maltese Navy that a nearby Italian ship would not respond to the refugee boat's distress calls because Italy would then be "in charge of transfer to the nearest coast." While Malta was willing to respond, its closest ship was 70 nautical miles away while Italy's closest ship was just 20 nautical miles away.

After sending a surveillance plane to check on the capsized boat, Malta again called the Italians, this time at 5:07 p.m., to encourage an urgent response as their own navy ship could not reach the Syrians in time. Only then did the Italians finally respond.

Read the full report at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

October 24, 2016

French authorities have begun the process of clearing the massive refugee camp in Calais known as "the Jungle," with demolishment set to begin Tuesday. The camp has poor sanitation and makeshift living quarters, and the French government said it is being destroyed on humanitarian grounds; still, the Jungle was believed to have held more than 7,000 people, and bulldozing the camp requires their relocation to other camps across France. More than 1,200 police have been dispatched to prepare for those who still want to try to get to Britain and may refuse to leave. "Our dream is over," one Sudanese man told the BBC. Migrants will be allowed to seek asylum and if they do not, they could face deportation. Jeva Lange

September 14, 2016
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The Obama administration will increase the number of refugees it will allow into the United States over the next year to 110,000, an increase of more than 57 percent since 2015.

A State Department official told NBC News the move is "consistent with our belief that all countries should do more to help the world's most vulnerable people." A senior White House official said at least 40,000 of the refugees are from South Asia and the Near East, with many of them likely from Syria, and they will undergo "rigorous screening" before they can enter the U.S.

Some Republicans are slamming the increase, with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) calling on Congress to pass the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act so "the People's duly elected representatives in Congress, not the president, decide what the number should be. It also empowers state and local governments to decide whether or not refugee resettlement is best for their communities." Over the last fiscal year, 85,000 refugees entered the United States, including 10,000 Syrians. Catherine Garcia

September 6, 2016
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Two new refugee camps will open in Paris before the year is over, the city's mayor announced Tuesday.

Anne Hidalgo said the camps will be the first built in such a dense, urban zone, The Huffington Post reports. The shelter for single men will open in Paris' 18th arrondissement, offering meals, clothing, and temporary housing, before the men move to longer-term housing. That 400-bed shelter was originally scheduled to open in June, but the opening date was pushed back to October due to slow construction. The second camp is for single women and families, and will be located outside of the city. It will house 350 people, and is expected to open before the end of the year.

Since 2015, more than 15,000 migrants and refugees have made their way to Paris, with some setting up camp in public areas, like under train tracks. "They are unhealthy and dangerous, and the migrants are living under shameful conditions," Hidalgo said. "This has also become a source of disturbance for residents in the neighborhood." There are more than 200 intake facilities and shelters, but they often aren't big enough to help everyone who needs it. The French government says there are around 7,000 people trying to find shelter across the country. Catherine Garcia

August 29, 2016
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On Monday, the United States will reach its goal of taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees as part of a yearlong resettlement program, the U.S. ambassador to Jordan announced Sunday.

Since Syria's civil war broke out in 2011, nearly five million Syrians have fled the country. Close to 660,000 live in Jordan, and several hundred refugees are leaving Jordan over the next 24 hours for resettlement in the U.S. Ambassador Alice Wells said refugees are "the most thoroughly screened category of travelers to the United States, and Syrian refugees are subject to even greater scrutiny."

The resettlement program focuses on the most vulnerable refugees, including those who are ill, targeted for violence, or experienced torture. One of those people is Nadim Fawzi Jouriyeh, 49, a former construction worker from Homs who has heart problems. He told The Associated Press he feels "fear and joy, fear of the unknown and our new lives, but great joy for our children's lives and future." He is headed to San Diego with his wife and four children, including 14-year-old Mohammed, who said he is excited to go to school and wants to one day study medicine. Catherine Garcia

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