Radio Free Asia: Southeast Asian States Go Easy on Myanmar Over Rohingya Abuse And Exodus

Read the original article here.


Myanmar has received a reprieve from formal criticism by a regional Asian group on the Rohingya crisis, but tough talks with the United States await when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the military commander-in-chief on Wednesday.

The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) issued a draft statement that failed to mention the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state during the annual East Asia Summit in Manila, Reuters reported.

The United Nations and rights groups have accused the Myanmar military of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in northern Rakhine where a recent military crackdown targeting Rohingya Muslims has forced more than 600,000 to flee to Bangladesh.

Myanmar political analyst Yan Myo Thein said the omission of the Rohingya crisis from the statement could reflect ASEAN’s policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of member states.

“It might also [signal] that the international community is [demonstrating] understanding on Myanmar’s struggle during its transition to democracy,” he said.

“I think that Myanmar might promise to work with the international community, and it is likely that the international community will also work with Myanmar on resolving this problem,” he said.

Nyan Win, spokesman for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, downplayed the lack of mention of the Rohingya crisis in the ASEAN document.

“People expected that this subject would be discussed during the summit,” he said. “Actually, the problem in Rakhine is just like fighting between two groups where some people have killed others.”

“That the draft statement skipped over the Rohingya crisis means international leaders accept there is no ethnic cleansing in Rakhine,” he said. U.N. officials and some world leaders have in fact described the treatment of Rohingya as “ethnic cleansing.”

Aye Lwin, a member of the government-appointed Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan noted that State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has been working on implementing the commission’s recommendations and repatriating refugees living in displacement camps in Bangladesh.

“She has said what she will do, and ASEAN must make comments on Myanmar only after waiting and seeing what she does,” he said.

Military in denial

The Myanmar military and government have denied accusations that security personnel burned Rohingya villages and indiscriminately killed, tortured, and raped residents, despite testimony to the contrary by survivors and satellite imagery of the ravaged communities.

They have also denied access to the conflict zone by independent observers to investigate accounts by Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh of widespread abuses by the Myanmar army.

In a report on Monday, the military said it had “abided by laws” during the “security operations” in northern Rakhine state, prompting international rights groups to clan that it is whitewashing ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity targeting the Rohingya.

When Aung San Suu Kyi met U.N. chief Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the conference on Tuesday, he stressed that the Rohingya refugees should be allowed to voluntarily return to Myanmar and that the government should increase efforts to ensure humanitarian access to the areas affected by violence.

Aung San Suu Kyi later met Tillerson briefly, though the two will have a one-on-one conversation on Wednesday in Naypyidaw to discuss the situation in northern Rakhine and the restoration of peace and stability.

Also on Wednesday,Tillerson is expected to tell Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, to end the violence in Rakhine to prevent Rohingya Muslims from fleeing to Bangladesh, Reuters reported, citing a U.S. State Department diplomat.

Some U.S. senators are now pursuing legislation to impose economic and travel sanctions on the armed forces and their business interests.

Washington, D.C.-based Refugees International called on Tillerson on Tuesday to recognize the Rohingya crisis as ethnic cleansing, a term that the U.S. government has so far refused to use.

“Secretary Tillerson’s visit must be used to recognize the tragedy for what it is, ethnic cleansing, and to pressure the Myanmar government and in particular Myanmar’s military to address the crimes against humanity that are taking place,” said Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, in a statement.

“This trip cannot become an endorsement of the current state of affairs in Myanmar,” he said. “Failure to make strong statements connected to strong actions will do just that,” he said.

‘Terrorists’ handed over


In a related development, Bangladeshi authorities on Tuesday handed over four Rohingya “terrorists” to Myanmar, said Police Colonel Aung Htay Myint of the Myanmar Police Force’s Transnational Crime Department.

Myanmar authorities gave Bangladesh a list with the names of 1,000 people deemed terrorists during a six-day conference on security and law enforcement between the Myanmar Police Force and Border Guard Bangladesh, which began on Monday in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw.

Aung Htay Myint said the two nations will discuss the policy to repatriate Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh and sign a memorandum of understanding when Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali visits Myanmar on Nov. 19.

“After that, Myanmar will accept refugees back by forming joint committees,” he said.

“We have our population list with data and documents from immigration and administrative departments,” he said. “We will accept back the people who appear in our data and who can submit documents that show they really lived in the area.”

Reported by Khin Khin Ei, and Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

The Atlantic: Trump's New Refugee Policy Targets These 11 Countries


The Trump administration issued an order Tuesday that resumed the resettlement of refuges in the United States, but said the applications of citizens from 11 “higher-risk” countries would be considered on a case-by-case basis during a new 90-day review period. The administration has so far declined to name the countries officially and publicly but two officials—one from the administration and the other from an advocacy group—separately confirmed that the countries were Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. All of those countries—except North Korea and South Sudan—are predominantly Muslim.

Six countries on the list—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and North Korea—were not a surprise: They were also on the latest version of the administration's travel ban that was announced last month and is currently blocked by the courts. But that travel ban also included the citizens of Chad and Venezuela. Tuesday’s refugee list, on the other hand, included the citizens of Iraq, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, and Egypt. The restrictions imposed last month were an outright ban on travelers—but not refugees—from those countries. Tuesday’s announcement does not constitute a formal ban. Rather, the administration said refugees from these countries would be considered on a case-by-case basis for the next 90 days. But Henrike Dessaules, the spokeswoman for the International Refugee Assistance Project, told me: “Under current vetting procedures, citizens from those countries already undergo additional security screening. What the administration is doing is effectively pausing these additional security checks.” These security checks, known as security advisory opinions, are already backlogged, she said. Consequently, resettlement from the 11 countries that require these checks will be on hold as well, she said.

Read the full article here.

CBS: Trump allows refugee admissions, with "enhanced vetting"

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday allowed the resumption of refugee admissions into the U.S. under new, stricter screening rules but ordered nationals from 11 countries believed to pose higher risk to U.S. national security to face even tougher scrutiny.

Officials refused to identify the 11 countries, but said refugee applications from those nations will be judged case-by-case.

Mr. Trump issued his new order on refugee screening as the administration's four-month ban on refugee admissions expired. It directs federal agencies to resume refugee processing, which he clamped down on shortly after taking office.

"With a world facing brutal and protracted conflicts like in Syria, or new levels of displacement and unimaginable violence against the Rohingya - this moment is a test of the world's humanity, moral leadership and ability to learn from the horrors of the past," she said. Sime was referring to the mounting refugee crisis in Myanmar, where more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape retaliation from security forces.

Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, called the White House's new restrictions "remarkable," and called on the administration to "at least have the decency to be transparent about what they are doing, and name the nationalities affected."

"Since 9/11, and the admission of nearly one million refugees, there has been no case of an admitted refugee in the United States being responsible for the death of an American due to an act of terror," Schwartz said in a statement released Tuesday. 

"There is little indication that any serious review of the so-called SAO countries was even attempted during the many months during which a review was supposed to be taking place," he alleged, calling the new screening effort, "a tragic example of evidence-free policymaking."

Read the full article here.

New York Times: Trump Lifts Refugee Suspension, but 11 Countries Face More Review

Read the original article here.


WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday resuming the admission of refugees to the United States under tighter security screening. But administration officials said they will subject 11 unidentified countries to another 90-day review for potential threats.

The order lifted a suspension on new refugee admissions that Mr. Trump first imposed shortly after taking office in January. At the time, it was part of a broader effort to limit the flow of foreigners admitted to the United States on the grounds of security, an initiative that has generated one of the sharpest legal and political debates of his nine-month-old presidency.

The president’s decision to lift the suspension, however, will not end the debate. Administration officials were vague about the additional 90-day review of the 11 countries, refusing even to name them, citing law enforcement sensitivities. They said refugees from those countries could still be admitted on a case-by-case basis during the 90 days if their entry is deemed in the national interest, and they do not pose a threat to the security or welfare of the United States.

It was not clear whether the new screening procedures would significantly diminish the chances for many applicants. While refugees who were vetted and approved before Mr. Trump took office have been allowed into the country this year, no new applications have been processed or approved since June.

Mr. Trump has already moved aggressively to scale back the nation’s refugee program, imposing a limit of 45,000 — the lowest in more than three decades — on the number of people fleeing persecution that can be resettled in the United States over the fiscal year that started on Oct. 1. The action announced on Tuesday, while restarting the admissions process halted earlier this year, could result in new roadblocks or even outright bans for refugees from the 11 countries, potentially narrowing the pool even further.

Refugee advocates said the new order is objectionable, noting that refugee applicants were already carefully screened and that no American has been killed in a terrorist attack by a refugee in the current era of concern over foreign-sponsored terrorism dating to the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The administration has had more than six months to review this policy” and “they’ve come back in October to reimpose what will largely be seen as another unreasonable ban that primarily affects Muslims,” said Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International. He called it “a cynical and tragic manipulation of administrative process” that “conflicts with U.S. values and interests.”

The White House said that both reviews — the one that has been completed and the new, 90-day one — both aim to secure the United States from a clear danger from terrorist groups seeking to infiltrate the country. “The review process for refugees” required by the president “has made our nation safer,” the new order said.

The president’s order came hours after the Supreme Court dismissed the last remaining appeal in a pair of cases challenging an earlier version of Mr. Trump’s travel restrictions, signed in March.

The March order was replaced in September with broader limits, so the court, in a brief, unsigned disposition, said the case was now moot. “We express no view on the merits,” the court said. But the September version has separately been blocked by federal district courts in Hawaii and Maryland and it may yet reach the Supreme Court.

The dismissal on Tuesday mostly amounted to judicial housekeeping, clearing out challenges to the March order as the justices await eventual appeals from the one issued in September. But the Supreme Court did a little more than simply remove the case from its docket. It also vacated the decision under appeal, from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, meaning it cannot be used as a precedent.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, saying that she would have simply dismissed the case and allowed the appeals court decision to remain on the books.

Erasing that precedent may have implications for the new challenge to the September order. Last week, in blocking the new order, Judge Derrick K. Watson, of the Federal District Court in Honolulu, relied heavily on the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

PBS NewsHour: What can stop the extreme violence against Rohingya Muslims?

The mass exodus from Myanmar continues for Rohingya Muslims, who are fleeing what the U.N. has called “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.” Judy Woodruff speaks with Eric Schwartz of Refugees International and Daniel Russel of Asia Society about the horrific accounts of murder and sexual violence, the roots of the humanitarian crisis and what can be done.


Washington Post: No more excuses. The Rohingya need our help.

Read the original article here.


DemocracyPost Opinion

No more excuses. The Rohingya need our help.

By Eric P. Schwartz October 12

Eric P. Schwartz is president of Refugees International. He was on a fact-finding mission in Bangladesh from Sept. 15 to 19.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton visited Rwanda, where he formally apologized for the U.S. government’s inaction during the 1994 genocide there that claimed approximately 800,000 lives. He lamented that the international community “did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name.” Indeed, this was an omission of historic proportion, and the absence of outrage enabled policymakers to avoid considering bold measures that might have made a difference.

The U.S. government is now risking the same kind of failure in the case of Burma’s Rohingya minority. On Oct. 5, State Department testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee was strikingly reminiscent of the initial descriptions of the situation in Rwanda 23 years ago. Members of Congress tried in vain to persuade the department’s East Asia witness, Deputy Assistant Secretary Patrick Murphy, to affirmatively declare that ethnic cleansing was taking place in Burma, also known as Myanmar. Instead, he described the situation as a “cauldron of complexities.” His remarks betrayed little sense of urgency.

The facts are hardly in dispute. On a visit to Bangladesh last month, I heard repeated testimony from refugees that confirmed what credible human rights groups have been reporting for many weeks. After attacks by a Rohingya militant group on Burmese security forces at the end of August, the Burmese military began systematically setting fire to Rohingya villages and shooting civilians as they sought to flee.

By now more than 500,000 Rohingya — about half of the Rohingya population living in Burma prior to Aug. 25 — have fled to Bangladesh, joining hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who were already there as refugees. The exodus continues even now, and there is little doubt that the Burmese military is responsible for crimes against humanity.

To be sure, the State Department testimony on Oct. 5 came after more pointed statements last month by Vice President Pence, who declared that the Burmese military had responded with “terrible savagery,” and by Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who referred to “a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority.” But these statements haven’t been followed by a strong U.S. effort to rally the world to the cause of the Rohingya. As a result, the State Department testimony remains the most detailed discussion of U.S. policy to date.

Our values demand that we should not simply sit by as if there were nothing we could do to prevent the continuing tragedy. U.S. interests in regional stability and democracy in Burma also compel stronger action. The persecuted Rohingya population has already attracted the attention of movements in the Islamic world. Militant groups may seek recruits among the roughly 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Future attacks by Rohingya insurgents in Burma would give the military a pretext to reassert control and end the country’s long-fought struggle for democracy.

Bold action is essential to diminish the likelihood of such an outcome and to enable the safe return of the Rohingya. It is true that the challenges are formidable. While Burmese civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed a willingness to accept the return of the Rohingya who have fled, no one knows what obstacles may be imposed by the Burmese authorities. It is unrealistic to believe Rohingya whose villages have been destroyed by the military would have sufficient confidence to dare return. Moreover, action to bring multilateral pressure to bear at the United Nations risks being stymied, above all by the Chinese government, which supports the Burmese military.

China also has an interest in good relations with Bangladesh and the Islamic world as well as in the long-term stability of Burma itself. For all these reasons, the United States should seek to join with China to press both Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese military to agree to the return of the Rohingya refugees and to provide them with genuine safeguards.

In particular, the United States, China and other U.N. Security Council members should urge that such safeguards include rapid deployment of a U.N. peace observer mission to Rakhine state, home to the overwhelming majority of the refugees. The mission would monitor both the return of refugees and conditions facing all ethnic communities, including those the Burmese government are concerned may be threatened by Rohingya insurgents. The diplomatic involvement of the Chinese, who now contribute more personnel to U.N. peace operations than any permanent member of the Security Council, could provide reassurance to the Burmese government and military.

The politics of this effort would be extremely complicated. But it is worth a try, as it may be the only hope to promote regional peace and stability and keep faith with a Rohingya population whose most fervent desire is to live in peace in Burma.

Guardian: Tensions flare as food rations to refugees slashed by half in Uganda

Read the original article here.

World Food Programme forced to cut grain handouts as lack of funding and sheer number of people fleeing South Sudan’s conflict leave agencies overwhelmed

Samuel Okiror in Kampala
Monday 9 October 2017 08.23 EDT

The flood of people fleeing South Sudan, coupled with delays and constraints on funding, has lead to food rations to refugees being slashed by half.

According to agencies working on the ground in Uganda, where most of the refugees have been arriving from the conflict across the border, food supply lines are being shut down and distribution of aid becoming increasing irregular.

The UN’s World Food Programme said it was forced to cut the amount of grain it was handing out due to delayed payments. 

“When the funding comes late it takes a bit longer to secure the cereals. It means that you have to go to the markets to procure, transport, store and distribute,” said El Khidir Daloum, WFP director for Uganda.

In the last fortnight, South Sudanese refugees at Nyumanzi settlement in Adjumani, which hosts about 20,000 people, protested in front of officials from the prime minister’s office.

Titus Jogo, refugee desk officer in Adjumani, said that they had to calm people down and explain that WFP did not have enough stock this month.

Andie Lambe, executive director at International Refugee Rights Initiative, said: “Our understanding is that the ration cuts this month were as a result of a break in the food pipeline within WFP and that these cuts are both temporary and that the gap was substituted with a cash equivalent of the missing ration. In addition, WFP assured us that this would not be applied to recent arrivals and vulnerable households.

“The refugees are dependent on handouts due to the lack of alternatives for them to support themselves. When rumours of rations being permanently cut or stopped altogether are combined with actual cuts and without clear explanation being given for this, tensions will increase and it is not unreasonable for refugees to voice their disquiet.”

The sheer scale of the disaster, in which more than 86% of refugees are women and children, means that strains have been put on already scarce resources.

“Uganda is dealing with a refugee crisis of historic proportions and the country and its humanitarian partners have not been able to meet the needs of one million South Sudanese who have sought protection from violence in a relatively short amount of time,” said Francisca Vigaud-Walsh of Refugees International.

“Uganda has an exemplary refugee policy and has done what it can to provide safe harbour and land to refugees, but the needs of refugees outstrip the capacity of humanitarian responders, given that the funding simply isn’t there,” she said.

In May this year, WFP was forced to cut food rations to refugees in the east African nation by 50% due to severe funding shortages. The agency need an estimated $167m (£126m) to provide aid through to the end of the year, but donors contributed only $30m as of September.

WFP needs $62m to help scale up, sustain and expand life-saving assistance and protection for the next six months of more than 1.3 million refugees.

“Every month we need $20m to feed the refugees in Uganda. For the next six months we have a shortage of $62m to $85m for refugees,” said Daloum. “We know what it takes to secure those resources, but at the same time, this is a life-saving issue.”

The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, and the UN secretary general, António Guterres, hosted a summit in June in Kampala to call for action for South Sudanese refugees, with $674m needed to support them in 2017. However by August, only 21% of that sum had been raised.

CNN: 12 Rohingya refugees killed after boat capsizes fleeing Myanmar

Read the original article here.

By Rebecca Wright and James Griffiths, CNN

(CNN)At least 12 Rohingya refugees, including 10 children, died after their boat capsized as they tried to flee Myanmar for Bangladesh, officials told CNN.

A fishing trawler capsized on the Naf River late Sunday evening local time, said Ariful Islam, commanding officer of the Bangladesh Border Guard in Teknaf, on the border with Myanmar.

Islam said his team rescued 13 people by pulling them from the water into their boats.

    "They (were) so distressed," Islam said of those rescued. "We have provided them with first aid and food. Now they are in the camps."

    He added it was unclear how many people were on board the boat or if any are still missing: "You never know, we might find more bodies."

    The 12 dead bodies were found washed ashore near Shah Porir Dwip, on the southern tip of Bangladesh.

    At least 519,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since late August after fleeing violence in Myanmar, according to the latest report from the Inter Sector Coordination Group in Bangladesh.

    Last week, Bangladesh announced plans to build a single, enormous refugee camp to house around 800,000 Rohingya refugees as the flow of people across the border shows no signs of stopping.

    "Solutions lie with (Myanmar) because the problem was created by the Myanmar government. We want them to take back their citizens to their own homeland," Obaidul Quader, a Bangladeshi minister, said last week, adding the refugees were an "unbearable burden" on his country.

    Bangladesh is also dealing with the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands of its own citizens due to severe seasonal flooding.

    Ceasefire ending

    In a new report released Friday, aid organization Refugees International described the actions of the Myanmar military as "crimes against humanity."

    Myanmar has repeatedly denied claims it is working deliberately to wipe out the Rohingya, saying they are carrying out counter attacks against "brutal acts of terrorism."

    The crackdown in Rakhine intensified after Rohingya militants killed 12 security officers during coordinated attacks on border posts, according to Myanmar state media.

    At midnight local time Monday (2:30 p.m. ET), a month-long ceasefire called by the militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) will come to an end, the group said in a statement Saturday.

    ARSA leader Ata Ullah said the ceasefire was conducted to allow humanitarian access to Rakhine State and to allow safe passage for refugees to escape to Bangladesh.

    He accused the Myanmar government of blocking humanitarian access, adding that ARSA is determined to "stop the tyranny and oppression waged against the Arakanese people."

    CNN's Medhavi Arora contributed reporting.


    US News & World Report: Aung San Suu Kyi, understand this: Ethnic cleansing is going on in your Myanmar

    Daniel Sullivan, Opinion contributor Published 5:00 a.m. ET Sept. 28, 2017 | Updated 5:07 p.m. ET Sept. 28, 2017

    Aung San Suu Kyi, former Nobel Peace laureate and current de facto leader of Myanmar, recently addressed the world on the Rohingya crisis for the first time: “We are concerned to hear numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border to Bangladesh. We want to understand why this exodus is happening.” She should ask Lila.

    Lila, 28, is a Rohingya mother of three whom I met in Thaingkhali, one of several newly established makeshift settlements in Bangladesh.

    The Rohingya are a minority in what's formerly known as Burma, where they are not recognized by the government as an official group and are denied citizenship. More than a million Rohingya are stateless Muslims in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country that has long been hostile to their presence.

    Suu Kyi’s inferred question — “Why have more than 480,000 Rohingya, a third of the Rohingya population in Myanmar, fled to Bangladesh in just the past month?” — is exactly what I asked Lila and numerous others in the few days leading up to Suu Kyi’s global address on Sept. 19. 

    Read the full article here.

    Politico: Grassley, Feinstein slam Trump administration for not consulting Congress on refugees

    Read the original article here.

    Grassley, Feinstein slam Trump administration for not consulting Congress on refugees

    By SEUNG MIN KIM 09/27/2017 07:25 PM EDT Updated 09/28/2017 10:19 AM EDT

    The leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee blasted the Trump administration on Wednesday for insufficiently consulting with Congress before deciding the number of refugees that will be admitted into the United States next year.

    The unusually harsh joint condemnation of the State Department from Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee’s chairman, and top Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California came as the administration slashed the number of refugees the country will take in during fiscal 2018 to 45,000 people. President Barack Obama had aimed to admit 110,000 refugees in the current fiscal year, which ends Saturday.

    Aides to the senators said a meeting on the issue with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wasn’t even scheduled until after details of the administration’s refugee plan had leaked out to the news media on Tuesday. The meeting occurred at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday — just before the senators issued their joint statement.

    “We are incredibly frustrated that the annual consultation for refugee admissions, which is required by law, was finalized just one day in advance,” Grassley and Feinstein said. “It is simply unacceptable to read in the press that the administration had reached its decision on the refugee cap before the mandated meeting with Congress had even been scheduled.

    “Since August, our offices have made bipartisan requests to the State Department on this meeting,” the senators continued. “Congress and the law require real engagement on this important subject. An eleventh-hour meeting to check a legal box is not sufficient.”

    Under the law, the administration is required to consult with Capitol Hill in person before a president can formally issue the annual number of refugee admissions. The administration must also submit a report to Congress on the matter.

    The Trump administration's refugee report — which has not yet been made public but was obtained by POLITICO — also outlines a new potential hurdle for those seeking admission as a refugee into the United States.

    While generally refugees have only needed to show a fear of persecution, the Trump administration's report says the government may now also consider how well the refugee would integrate into the United States.

    According to the 70-page report, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security will "work closely" with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to "ensure that, in addition, to referrals of refugees with compelling protection needs, referrals may also take into account certain criteria that enhance a refugee’s likelihood of successful assimilation and contribution in the United States.

    The State Department on Wednesday night referred questions about the policy to its Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

    But advocates for refugees are beginning to raise concerns about the assimilation policy. Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, called it "new criteria that undermines the spirit of humanitarianism that underlies the Refugee Act.

    "Moreover, it’s not clear what problem this criteria is trying to solve, as refugees already succeed in integrating into American society," Schwartz said. "In any case, I’d be reluctant to leave to pseudo-sociologists in government the determinations about which refugees will do better in the United States."

    The refugee report outlines several ways that agencies are working on integration efforts for refugees. For instance, Homeland Security is exploring whether to prioritize "grant-funded programs that focus on integrating newly arrived refugees and recently approved asylees through a variety of critical assimilation services," according to the report.

    Feinstein issued a statement later Wednesday calling the refugee cap of 45,000 “completely unacceptable” and that it “does not reflect the needs of the worldwide humanitarian crisis.”

    “California accepts more refugees than any other state—9 percent of the U.S. total—and I’ve never been told about a problem,” Feinstein said. “Simply put, our country is not doing its part to respond to this global crisis and there’s no good reason for that to be the case. We’re better than this.”

    Yahoo! News: Activists cling to hope Myanmar leader will step up and fight ethnic cleansing

    Read the original article here.

    Katie Flaherty
    Yahoo News September 27, 2017

    Last week Myanmar’s de facto head of state Aung San Suu Kyi again failed to address the international communities’ concerns on the plight of the displaced Rohingya ethnic group in her country. The onetime democratic activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate seemed unaware or unwilling to acknowledge the mass exodus of the Muslim minority in the mostly Buddhist country, leading human rights officials to debate their next step in the unfolding tragedy.

    In one month, more than 422,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee their home in the country’s northern Rakhine State as the Myanmar military reportedly conducts “clearance operations” that have been deemed “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra‘ad Al Hussein.

    Rights groups have been pressuring diplomats to redirect their attention and issue targeted economic sanctions against the leaders of the campaign and the country’s true power, the military.

    After decades of martial law, Suu Kyi’s party National League for Democracy (NLD) took control of the government in 2016 as the face of Myanmar’s long-delayed shift to democracy. But since then, she has been a “profound disappointment,” says Human Right’s Watch Asia advocacy director John Sifton, for failing to condemn the same army generals who kept her under house arrest for 15 years.

    Still, he says, she may be the international communities’ only hope to halt the continuing atrocities.

    Although Suu Kyi rightfully won Myanmar’s election, her formal title is state counsellor, a position she created for herself to get around the constitution’s prohibition on anyone with a foreign spouse or children from holding the presidency. Suu Kyi’s two children are British citizens, as was her late husband.

    Still, she is widely recognized as the country’s leader, with the president, U Htin Kyaw,serving as a close confidantBut the Constitution allots 25 percent of parliamentary seats to the military and allows the armed forces to overrule the president in the event a “state of emergency arises” or any time the army deems newly established rights are interfering with their ability to protect the state’s sovereignty.

    “They realized they could manage a transition to ‘democracy’ in which she would run a civilian government, but they would continue to essentially run the national security and foreign affairs of the state,” says Sifton.

    The Myanmar Army began its most recent crackdown on the Rohingya a month ago, after a handful of insurgents under the name Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked police outposts, killing 12 officers. The army has since used the attack as a pretense to systematically kill civilians, rape women and burn more than 200 villages. Military leaders say the campaign is targeting only armed militants, even as close to half the Rohingya population in Myanmar has now fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

    Dan Sullivan, senior advocate for human rights at Refugees International, who visited Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, close to the border, says Bangladeshi patrols described finding land mines at crossing points and verified refugees’ stories that it was Myanmar police setting fire to their homes.

    Also near Cox’s Bazar, United Nations Human Refugee Agency spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey, who is working in two nearby refugee camps, says although they heard the raids had slowed slightly, refugees are still coming over the border. McKinsey says they have all told similar stories.

    “They describe seeing their families killed, chopped up in front of them, this is the thing I hear over and over again,” she says.

    But the persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar is not unique to the military and has roots extending back more than half a century. Among the Burmese population, even the name ‘Rohingya’ is taboo, as many believe the government narrative that these people are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Under Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law, Rohingya are not one of the recognized “national races” and therefore are denied basic rights.

    Human Rights Watch deputy director for global advocacy Philippe Bolopion visited Rakhine State in the spring, when he says even before the recent crisis, many Rohingya were confined to “de facto prison camps” without access to jobs, hospitals or education.

    “People are stuck in these camps for years, they have absolutely no future, and no dignity and no semblance of a normal life.”

    McKinsey says the minority group is unique in that they are one of the only ethnic populations in the world that are both stateless and refugees.

    “These people have never had the protection of the country in which they were born. The Rohingya are the most friendless people in the world, the most persecuted people in the world. … They have no allies, it’s just unbelievable.”

    After the most recent wave of refugees, Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, is now sheltering more than 800,000 Rohingya. Local Bengalis have begun to open their homes to refugees as well as to those already living in camps, but McKinsey says the speed and sheer number of arrivals have left at least 90 percent of the latest wave living outside of the camps, forced to squat in makeshift shelters on the side of the road.

    Last week’s U.N. General Assembly brought together more than 100 heads of state but failed to produce any kind of concrete action on the crisis. The U.S. also pledged $32 million for the emergency response in Bangladesh and in Rakhine State itself. But as a political matter, Sifton says there is reluctance among U.S. officials to admit that their hopes for Myanmar haven’t been realized. Under President Obama the U.S. removed most sanctions on Myanmar in 2016 and began working and training with the country’s military in a limited capacity.

    “Policy makers the world over who were invested in [Myanmar’s] transition are concerned that taking tough actions like sanctions, arms embargos will essentially be an admission that the transition to democracy has failed,” he says.

    The State Department refused to comment on sanctions. In spite of a long history of ethnic conflict and atrocities under years of unfettered military rule, the U.N. has never issued sanctions on Myanmar for its human rights abuses. However, many countries have taken a bilateral approach to punish the state.

    The U.N. has yet to even hold a public Security Council meeting on the situation in Rakhine State, but Sifton says the issue has the necessary support for a procedural vote to put the issue on the agenda. Sanctions or other substantive action would likely be vetoed by China, one of Myanmar’s closest allies, but Sifton thinks even debating the issue would send a signal to the military that they are under scrutiny.

    However, recent military speeches in the region call into question whether such a threat would be much of a deterrent. On Thursday, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing addressed the situation in Rakhine State without mentioning the almost half million Rohingya Muslims who fled his forces.

    “Regarding the rehabilitation of villages of our national races, for the national races who fled their homes, first of all they must go back to their places,” he said.

    The use of ‘national races’ refers to the constitutionally recognized ethnic groups, including both Buddhists and Hindus, some 30,000 of whom have also been displaced by the crisis.

    Related slideshow: Protesters rally in solidarity with Rohingya Muslims >>>

    Aung Hlaing has done little to hide that his army is trying to rid the country of Muslims entirely, defending the operations as “unfinished business,” a reference dating back to World War II when ethnic tensions between Buddhist and Muslims resulted in mass atrocities, disproportionately affecting the Rohingya.

    Former Lt. Gen. Wai Lwin also spoke Thursday during a rally for the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, where he and others spun theories of the Rohingya’s ties to militant groups like the Islamic State and dismissed international pressure to halt the clearance operations. Wai Lwin stressed the importance of the military’s ability to “protect the country’s sovereignty,” over “prioritizing human rights.”

    Even with the army’s transparent intentions on public display, Suu Kyi has refused to condemn the military, reminding the world that her government has only been in power for 18 months.

    “I’m a bit dumbfounded by this idea that we have to be understanding of the hardships of democratic transition. Yes, we get that, but that does not excuse an ethnic cleansing campaign,” says Bolopion.

    Rights groups have called for sanctions specifically targeting high-ranking military officers, issuing personal travel bans and targeting companies they own.

    “The Trump administration could throw [Myanmar’s army chief] Gen. Min Aung Hlaing on the specially designated nationals list tonight if he wanted to.”

    This list, issued by the Treasury Department, designates individuals and companies that are effectively blacklisted, cutting off their assets and any relations with the U.S. The decision would not require billions of dollars or even international cooperation, it’s just a matter of policy.

    Senior U.S. officials have expressed fear that sanctions will only strengthen the military and serve to further isolate Suu Kyi. But Human Rights Watch believes these actions would do just the opposite, he says, empowering Suu Kyi and leveraging her record of getting Obama to lift sanctions to rein in the army.

    From the beginning of her appearance in the world’s spotlight, Suu Kyi has said she’d like to be seen as a politician, not a human rights icon, and Human Rights Watch’s calls for action suggests using her as such.

    “She could be the middle man between the generals and the U.S. She’ll be the one to convince them [that] if they do what she asks, which is stop these operations and negotiate some kind of situation where [refugees] are allowed to return,” she could get sanctions removed again, says Sifton.

    Unfortunately, even if the Rohingya are able to return, prejudice runs deep among the people of Rakhine State. The end of strict military rule gave rise to a growing strain of Buddhist extremism that regards the Rohingya a threat to both the country and its majority religion.

    “We’d have a situation where we’d basically be asking the people who are carrying out the ethnic cleansing to stop carrying out the ethnic cleansing, let people return and then guard them from ethnic cleansing by the local population,” says Sifton.

    In these types of situations, peacekeeping forces or international monitors are often deployed, but often come with their own set of problems.

    Despite perilous conditions, McKinsey says, all refugees — including the Rohingya she’s spoken with — always want to return home.

    “These are people with their own free will and they are the ones who will decide where they can go safely. … The international community to needs to create conditions that will make it attractive for people to go back to their lives,” Bolopion adds.


    Foreign Policy: Aid Groups Slam Trump’s Reduced Refugee Quota

    Read the original article here.


    Drawing outcry from humanitarian and refugee aid groups, President Donald Trump’s administration formally proposed Wednesday slashing the number of refugees allowed into the United States to its lowest level in decades.

    The Trump administration proposed capping the number of refugees the United States takes in at 45,000 in fiscal year 2018, senior administration officials confirmed on Wednesday. Foreign Policy reported on the upcoming refugee quota decision on Tuesday.

    The breakdown: 19,000 from Africa, 17,000 from the Middle East and South Asia, 5,000 from East Asia, and 1,500 from Latin America and the Caribbean.

    A top administration official cited security concerns in the decision to limit the number of refugees, amid fears terrorists or other malign actors could slip into the United States under the guise of being a refugee. Refugees undergo extensive background checks, and new directives from President Trump could compel U.S. agencies to make those checks even more stringent.

    “The security and safety of the American people is our chief concern,” the official said.

    But humanitarian leaders say the security argument falls flat; since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, none of the nearly 1 million resettled refugees who entered the United States ever carried out a terrorist attack.

    “You can assert whatever you want to assert but the facts just simply bely this preposterous argument,” said Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International. “I see this as an example of fact-free policymaking,” he added.


    Read the full article here.

    NPR: Refugees International Head: Abuses Against Rohingya Refugees 'Almost Unimaginable'

    NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, about what he learned from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, after his trip to Cox's Bazaar. 


    Eric Schwartz is seeing firsthand what's happening at the border of Myanmar in Bangladesh. He's president of Refugees International, and he arrived in the area over the weekend. I asked him to describe what he's seeing.

    ERIC SCHWARTZ: Well, Ari, the magnitude of the abuses perpetrated by the Burmese military is almost unimaginable. I've been on about - oh, I don't know - dozens of human rights and humanitarian missions over a 30-year career. And I've - I don't recall ever getting choked up until yesterday.

    SHAPIRO: Wow.

    SCHWARTZ: Well, the day before yesterday. After hearing - visiting a hospital with kids who had suffered gunshot wounds, burn wounds - 1-year-old, a 5-year-old, a 17-year-old girl. What we've heard repeatedly from everyone we've spoken to is a pattern of really horrendous abuses in the military surrounding villages, firing incendiary devices, people fleeing, people being shot at indiscriminately, villages being burned and just masses and masses of people going across the border.

    SHAPIRO: What you're describing sounds less like an effort to force people out and more like an extermination campaign.

    SCHWARTZ: There is no question in my mind that there are crimes - certainly, this is ethnic cleansing. And there are crimes against humanity that are taking place. Unquestionably a wide practice of atrocities - a textbook definition of crimes against humanity. It's shocking. It's even shocking for someone like me who has seen a lot of bad things over the years.

    SHAPIRO: Will you tell me the story of someone that you met in one of these camps, a story that'll stay with you?

    SCHWARTZ: Sure. At the risk of getting choked up, a very articulate woman from a village who fled with three young girls - ages I think about 7 and 5 and a young baby - whose husband urged her to get out of the village. And he said that he would follow. She was later told by other villagers who arrived in Bangladesh that her husband was shot but not only shot. He was shot through the head. And the look of resignation and - both resignation and anger was really just so affecting. So there was story after story. There was nobody we talked to - there's nobody we talked to who hasn't had a mother, a brother, a son, an uncle, some family member who was killed by the military. This is a horror story.

    SHAPIRO: They have fled to Bangladesh, a very poor country. What are the conditions right there where you are? Is it an organized refugee camp, or is it more ad hoc than that?

    SCHWARTZ: Well, it's very ad hoc. And these camps have been very makeshift. We're talking about 400,000 people, on top of as many as half a million Rohingya refugees who were already in Bangladesh. Probably roughly about half of the new arrivals are in these makeshift facilities. People are living in squalor, where, in the rainy season, mud is ankle deep. International aid providers are doing the best they can. And the government of Bangladesh is doing the best that it can. You know, there's a basic question here, which is, you know, has the government of Bangladesh recognized its responsibility to take care of these people. And at this point. The government of Bangladesh has said, yes, that this is a challenge it's prepared to take on. And that's extremely important.

    SHAPIRO: Eric Schwartz is president of Refugees International - speaking with us from Bangladesh near the border with Myanmar. Thanks for joining us.

    SCHWARTZ: Thank you, Ari.

    AP: As Myanmar Muslims flee crackdown, US is wary of involvement

    Read the original article here.

    By Matthew Pennington | AP September 9

    WASHINGTON — Don’t expect the United States to step in and resolve what is increasingly being described as an ethnic cleansing campaign against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.

    Not wanting to undermine the Asian country’s democratic leader, the U.S. is cautiously criticizing what looks like a forced exodus of more than a quarter-million Rohingya in the last two weeks as Myanmar’s military responds with hammer force to insurgent attacks.

    But neither Trump administration officials nor lawmakers are readying sanctions or levying real pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi’s government. A bill making its way through Congress seeks to enhance U.S.-Myanmar military cooperation.

    “Further normalization of the military-to-military relationship with Burma is the last thing we should be doing right now,” said Walter Lohman, Asia program director at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation. “What a terrible signal to be sending.”

    Human rights groups are equally appalled. The U.N. says 290,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar, the country also known as Burma, into neighboring Bangladesh since Aug. 25. It is the biggest flight of the long-suppressed minority in a generation. The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar, regarded by majority Buddhists as illegal immigrants although many have lived in the ethnically diverse Southeast Asian nation for generations.

    Rohingya refugees packed into camps in Bangladesh are becoming desperate. Fights are erupting over food and water. Vivian Tan, speaking for the U.N. refugee agency, said new arrivals are setting up spontaneous settlements along roadsides or on any available patches of land.

    “We are seeing the mushrooming of these very flimsy shelters that will not be able to house people for too long,” she said.

    The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has previously warned of the risk of genocide in Myanmar, says the widespread destruction of homes and villages suggests “an effort to ethnically cleanse the region of its Rohingya population and to prevent their eventual return.”

    Refugees International accuses the military of blocking life-saving aid and of committing rights abuses, “which we believe amount to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” It called for re-imposition of sanctions against military officials, such as visa bans and asset freezes, and international accountability for officers implicated in wrongdoing.

    Although the U.S. has long led the international effort to address human rights abuses and bring democracy to Myanmar, the prospects of Washington leading a new pressure campaign appear slim.

    U.S. officials are wary of undermining the weak civilian government of Suu Kyi, which took office last year, ending five decades of ruinous army rule. The military remains politically powerful and oversees security operations, but Suu Kyi is still seen by Washington as key to sustaining civilian rule and eventually addressing the Rohingya’s long-term grievances. Last year she invited an international commission led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan to help her government address the sectarian tensions.

    Another obstacle: Re-imposing even limited sanctions on abusive military officials would probably require new legislation or executive action.

    In the past five years as Myanmar took steps toward democracy, President Barack Obama and Congress almost entirely waived or ended the once-formidable array of U.S. restrictions.

    Myanmar’s transition was a priority for Obama and a prized foreign policy achievement. President Donald Trump has shown little interest in getting involved.

    Asked if Trump was concerned about Myanmar’s violence, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was “aware of the situation.” She said Friday she didn’t know if Trump has spoken to Suu Kyi since becoming president.

    U.S. diplomats are more engaged. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement Friday that Washington is “deeply troubled” by reports of attacks against innocent civilians.

    The U.S. Embassy in Yangon is discussing the situation with civilian and military authorities, and calling for an end to violence and access for humanitarian groups and journalists, the State Department said. Lack of access has made it hard to verify the situation on the ground.

    But the department has indicated new sanctions aren’t being prepared on a nation it now considers a “partner,” not an adversary.

    “As partners now, we can encourage, we can facilitate, we can assist,” said Patrick Murphy, a senior U.S. diplomat for Southeast Asia. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

    Gentle persuasion doesn’t appear to be working.

    Republican and Democratic lawmakers, traditionally in the vanguard of Myanmar policy, have denounced the military’s conduct and strongly urged intervention by Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who has courted unprecedented criticism for dismissing the crisis as a misinformation campaign.

    Many high-level officials have talked to her, including U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said one U.N. Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. As for what the Security Council might do next, the diplomat said there is no decision.

    “I know the Chinese do not favor anything more than a repeat of what we’ve done before, but the situation might demand that,” the diplomat said.

    In a letter to Suu Kyi, Rep. Ed Royce, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Republican chairman, said atrocities against Rohingya “must end” or bilateral relations will be affected. Republican Sen. John McCain urged Suu Kyi — who spent nearly 15 years under house arrest — to condemn atrocities Rohingya have suffered at the hands of the same military that long oppressed her.

    Beneath the rhetoric, there are wrinkles. A defense spending bill due to be taken up by the Senate in coming days could expand restricted ties with Myanmar’s military. A draft of the bill, opposed by some lawmakers, allows for courses and workshops on issues like maritime security, peacekeeping and combating human trafficking.

    A separate resolution, with McCain as a co-sponsor, describes the situation in bleak terms.

    “Brutal and methodical reprisal by the Burmese military on villages” has been carried out, it says, “with helicopters firing on civilians, razing villages with petrol bombs, and front line troops cutting off families’ escape routes.”


    Reuters: Former U.S. officials urge balance in refugee cost reports

    Read the original article here.


    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former officials of the State Department and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service have written to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, urging that two White House-ordered reports on refugee resettlement costs be balanced by also tallying the benefits refugees bring to the United States.

    Reuters in June first reported discord over the reports, which President Donald Trump ordered in March. Four current and former officials said they believe the Trump administration wants to help make a case to restrict refugee flows by creating a skewed analysis.

    A White House spokesman at the time denied ordering biased reports.

    Trump campaigned for president on a platform of restricting immigration and building a border wall with Mexico. His March order framing the reports, which are due in September, did not ask that they include the economic or diplomatic benefits of resettling refugees, which many experts say can be considerable over time.

    “We believe that an assessment of the long-term costs of the Refugee Admissions Program must also gauge the long-term economic and social benefits of the program, and that failure to do so will paint a misleading picture of the program’s value to the United States,” the 10 former senior officials and academics wrote to Tillerson.

    The letter was sent to Tillerson on Wednesday and made public on Thursday.

    For the first report, Trump ordered a tally of “the estimated long-term costs of the United States Refugee Admissions Program at the Federal, State, and local levels, along with recommendations about how to curtail those costs.”

    Trump directed that the second report estimate “how many refugees are being supported in countries of first asylum (near their home countries) for the same long-term cost as supporting refugees in the United States, taking into account the full lifetime cost of Federal, State, and local benefits, and the comparable cost of providing similar benefits elsewhere.”

    The letter’s authors called that a “flawed exercise,” saying that while keeping refugees in camps overseas may be cheaper in some cases, it does not provide a sustainable long-term solution.

    “The cost of a fish may be less than that of a fishing pole, but only the latter will free the beneficiary from dependency into the future,” they wrote.

    Signers of the letter include Arthur Dewey and Eric Schwartz, both former assistant secretaries of state for population, refugees and migration; former deputy INS commissioner Myrta Sale; and three former INS general counsels.

    Reuters: Flexibility, long-term planning reduce Somali famine threat, report says

    Read the original article here.


    LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - People suffering in Somalia’s latest drought have fared better when donors deftly shift funding to emergency projects that help residents save money and stockpile food, a charity said on Tuesday.

    Severe drought in the Horn of Africa nation is expected to deepen until the October rainy season, and humanitarians are racing to avoid a repeat of the 2011 famine when more than 250,000 people died of starvation.

    Funding from major donors, including the United States, Britain and the European Union has been used effectively in Somalia for community warehousing of food and for savings and loans programs, the rights group Refugees International said in a report.

    Flexible use of that funding allowed agencies in Somalia to switch to emergency preparedness projects once it became clear in June 2016 that the drought would be prolonged, it said.

    It was easier for donors to send funds to agencies in Somalia because they already had contracts in place, it said.

    “By acting early to heed pre-famine warnings, the humanitarian community in Somalia and donors were able to stabilize what could have been a catastrophic situation,” it said.

    “Many of the target communities were better able to maintain food security, preserve their assets, and avoid having to flee to other areas during the drought.”

    More than 6 million Somalis -- about half the country’s population -- are in need of emergency aid, the United Nations says.

    Another sign of progress since the 2011 famine is that the government’s national development plan and the U.N.’s humanitarian appeal included long-term resilience projects, Refugees International said.

    Along with a shift to longer-term planning, Somalia needs a stronger government and peace to end its recurrent hunger crises, Mark Yarnell, a senior advocate with Refugees International told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    “The unfortunate reality is [resilience] can never occur at a scale that will be able to fend off this inevitable rolling tide of climate change,” he said.

    Southern Somalia is receiving less rainfall than historic averages, which has hit poor farmers, the report said.

    TIME: Migrants on Greek Islands Are Trapped and Desperate, Report Says

    Read the original article here.

    Tara John
    Aug 15, 2017

    Thousands of asylum-seekers in Greece's Aegean islands are stranded in appalling circumstances, according to a new report by Refugees International.

    Since a 2016 deal between the E.U. and Turkey, which aims to discourage migrants from crossing the sea to Greece, Turkey has agreed to take back migrants who arrived to Greek islands from its territory. But in reality very few have so far been relocated, according to Refugees International — just 1,210 as of June 13.

    The result, says a new report entitled “Like a Prison”: Asylum Seekers Confined to the Greek Islands, is thousands of asylum-seekers trapped in overcrowded and unsafe accommodation on the Greek islands. This "containment" has taken a psychological toll, says the advocacy group, based in Washington, D.C. The report describes how some migrants on the islands of Chios, Lesvos and Samos feel trapped and anxious about the lack of available services. " Greece’s policy of containing people on its Aegean islands is having devastating effects on people’s physical and mental health," said Izza Leghtas, senior advocate for Europe at Refugees International, said in a statement.

    More than 12,000 migrants have crossed from Turkey to Greece this year, according to the IOM, a considerable drop in numbers compared to some 161,000 arrivals during the same period a year before. " Because far fewer people are arriving along this route than in 2015, the EU and Greece are presenting the EU-Turkey agreement as a success"Leghtas said. "The reality is that thousands of people, many of them traumatized from war or persecution, are trapped and unable to get the help they need."

    TIME has written about the mental strains placed on migrants languishing in Greece in "Finding Home," a multimedia project which has been following three Syrian refugees since Sept. 2016 as they prepared to give birth and raise a child in foreign countries. Read more here.