The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that this year has seen a "notable trend of spontaneous returns" of displaced Syrians to their homes, both from outside and inside the country. Around 31,000 refugees returned from neighboring countries in the first six months of 2017, while more than 440,000 internally displaced persons went back to their homes—a combined total of nearly half a million. The main destinations are said to be Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus—all now largely under regime control after years of heavy fighting against rebel forces. UNHCR representative Andrej Mahecic said Syrians are seeking out family members, checking on property, and "in some cases responding to a real or perceived improvement in security conditions in parts of the country." But he warned that despite hopes over recent peace talks in Astana and Geneva, the "UNHCR believes conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity are not yet in place in Syria." (The Independent, July 1)
Of the more than 14,000 asylum seekers currently confined to five Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, many are facing dire circumstances due to unusually harsh winter conditions, according to a statement released today by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The migrants are fleeing conflict zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and many have been confined for more than ten months, according to the report. A "hotspot" was created in Moria on the island of Lesbos at the recommendation (PDF) of the European Commission to serve as a reception and registration area for refugees, as required by a deal the EU signed with Turkey last March. The report from HRW finds more needs to be done, saying the Greek government should immediately transfer vulnerable refugees to "appropriate mainland accomodations." During a recent visit to the Moria camp, HRW staff reported seeing flimsy, snow-covered tents, and vulnerable refugees in life-threatening living conditions.
OK, I’ve had enough with these disingenuous demands from the likes of Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Jeremy Scahill, etc. that the CIA "show us the evidence," and the frankly absurd charges of "McCarthyism," which is simply reading the politics of this mess backwards. I know not a blessed thing about digital forensics, but all the political logic here points to Russia being behind the hacks in an intentional strategy to throw our election to Donald Trump. All these "leftists" abetting the fascist takeover of the country like this (whether cluelessly or cynically) have me pulling my damn beard out. Please follow this.
We know we're going to be accused of alarmism, but please follow the logic. First, however self-serving it may be, the accusation of a Russian intelligence hand in the WikiLeaks dump of hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee is plausible. Famously, the e-mails reveal DNC staffers pulling for Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders, prompting the resignation of the supposedly neutral body's chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The DNC had apparently been hit by Russian hackers, and Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook is now openly charging that Moscow is trying to boost Donald Trump.
A court on the Greek island of Lesbos on May 20 ruled that Turkey is an "unsafe third country" for asylum seekers, throwing into doubt the EU-Turkey migrant deal. The panel of judges refused to reject an asylum application by a Syrian refugee and have him deported to Turkey. The decision came the same day that 51 refugees and migrants of different nationalities were forcibly returned to Turkey by Greek authorities. (Ekathimerini, May 20) Amnesty International's Giorgos Kosmopoulos hailed the decision, charging that Turkey is not complying with standards of the Refugee Convention. "Until it becomes a safe country nobody should be returned there," he said. He cited violations of the rights to work, medical care and family life, and said there have been "widespread returns of Syrians back to Syria from Turkey." On the pact with the EU, he added: "The whole deal should stop and refugees should be settled in other European countries safely and with dignity." (BBC News, May 21)
Several aid organizations urged EU leaders on April 14 to stop deportations of migrants from Greece to Turkey and to stop detaining asylum seekers. Oxfam, Norwegian Refugee Council and Solidarity Now took part in the joint letter. The deportations are part of a deal struck last month between Turkey and EU leaders in which all migrants crossing the Aegean into Greece would be sent back to Turkey. The rights groups report that thousands of migrants are being held in detention camps in Greece and many are returned to Turkey without proper asylum hearings. The "fast-track" expedited asylum hearings adopted by Greece are also of concern, they say, because important decisions and examinations concerning asylum are made by understaffed agencies in only one day. The rights groups are also calling for EU to open all camps housing asylum seekers, increase the number of asylum officers in Greece, and improve security in the facilities.
Turkey has been forcibly returning up to 100 refugees to Syria per day since mid-January, Amnesty International (AI) reported April 1. In addition to Turkish authorities rounding up refugees in migrant camps near the border, AI has also alleged that some migrants attempting to register in Turkey were, instead, removed back to Syria. The report criticized the recent migrant deal between Turkey and the EU, expressing concern over the possible future of the refugees to be sent back to Turkey after arriving in Greece. "If the agreement proceeds as planned, there is a very real risk that some of those the EU sends back to Turkey will suffer the same fate" AI said. If true, the allegations are illegal under not only international law, but the laws of the EU, and Turkey itself.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, expressed concerns March 8 for a proposed migrant exchange program between the EU and Turkey. The Joint Action Plan (PDF), was proposed to decrease human smuggling along the shores of southern Europe and to help alleviate the massive influx of refugees hosted by Turkey. The most controversial aspect of the deal is the objective "to resettle, for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian from Turkey to the EU Member States."