U.S. Extends Stay for Ukrainian Refugees Who Entered Through Mexico Border

The Biden administration announced Monday “it will allow many Ukrainians who entered the U.S. at the southern border to remain in the country for an additional year under a program known as humanitarian parole,” Voice of America reported.

About 25,000 Ukrainians and their family members who came into the country through Mexico at a U.S. port of entry between Feb. 24 and April 25 last year were allowed to stay for a year. The Department of Homeland Security said it would consider one-year extensions for that group, the New York Times reported.

“This process will provide critical relief to thousands of Ukrainians who have been facing tremendous anxiety and uncertainty about their future here,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “Vulnerable families should not be penalized for the path they take to save their lives, regardless of their country of origin. For this earliest-arrived group of Ukrainians, the continued legal right to live, work, and access resettlement assistance in the U.S. is absolutely crucial to their well-being.”

She said that moving forward, the Biden administration “should not wait until the brink to extend critical humanitarian protections. For example, the earliest arrivals of the 70,000 Afghan evacuees paroled into the U.S. will see their protections expire as soon as this summer. The administration’s broader use of parole must be accompanied by a thoughtful plan for how and when temporary protections will be extended, and how beneficiaries can access pathways to longer-term status.”

Child Refugees will be Detained or Deported Under U.K. Plan

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to reduce small boat crossings will effectively reverse a ban on child detention implemented under David Cameron and open the door to an expansion of the practice, the Observer reported.

At issue is a recent proposal by Sunak that “is the most drastic migration clampdown yet under the Conservative government, and part of a drive to stem the number of small boat crossings to Britain that have also led to deadly accidents.” (Financial Times, March 10).

“Several senior Tories are particularly worried about changes to the way children will be treated when arriving in the UK, and the way in which the new bill comes close to breaching international law. One former minister told the Observer the changes to rules on children ‘make me sick just to mention’ and would have to be modified,” report Toby Helm and Michael Savage in the Observer.

On March 7, BBC’s Gary Lineker tweeted “Good heavens, this is beyond awful” in response to a video posted on Twitter by the British Home Office announcing the new proposed policy.

Lineker, a former England soccer player, was then suspended by the BBC, but he was reinstated in his role on “Match of the Day” on March 13.

New York Times Looks at Australia’s Harmful Approach to Refugees

In a March 10 story in the New York Times, Natasha Frost details the harmful legacy of Australia’s approach to refugees.

“Australia’s unyielding approach to refugees — which includes a system of indefinite mandatory detention for people suspected to be in the country unlawfully — is among the strictest in the world,” she writes.

Refugees who successfully make it to Australia “have been held for years on end at detention centers run by private contractors on nearby islands,” Frost notes.

Australia’s approach to refugees appears “to be the playbook for proposed legislation in Britain that would give the Home Office a “duty” to remove nearly all migrants who cross the English Channel on small boats.”

“The main thing they have in common is in seeking to criminalize, almost, asylum, or at least to undermine the right to an institution of asylum,” ssad Michelle Foster, a professor at Melbourne Law School and the director of the Peter McMullin Center on Statelessness, of Britain’s and Australia’s policies.

Why Pursue Automation When Migrants Can Fill Job Openings?

In a compelling new piece published in Foreign Affairs, Lant Pritchett makes a convincing argument that the drive to utilize automation to fill labor shortages overlooks a far simpler solution — namely, filling those job openings with migrants.

Choosing devices over people is a mistake, argues Pritchett, Research Director of Labor Mobility Partnerships, RISE Research Director at the Blavatnik School of Development at the University of Oxford, and a former World Bank economist.

Such a decision “leads the world to miss out on the real economic and humanitarian gains that would come from letting people move to where they are needed instead of trying to invent machines that can supplant humans. The refusal to allow people to cross national borders as economic migrants, especially to engage in jobs that require just core labor skills, massively distorts the trajectory of technological change in ways that make everybody, especially the world’s poor, worse off.”

He points out that the U.S. faces a scarcity of truck drivers. “To deal with this deficit, many tech moguls, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, have invested in the research and development of self-driving vehicles, technology that would reduce the demand for drivers,” Pritchett notes.

But there is no global scarcity of people who would like to be long-haul truck drivers in the United States, where the median wage for such work is $23 per hour, the article points out. “In the developing world, truck drivers make around $4 per hour. Yet firms cannot recruit workers from abroad even at the higher wage because of restrictions on immigration, so business leaders in the United States are impelled to choose machines over people and eradicate jobs through the use of technology.”

The fact of national borders “steers businesses toward investing in technology that does not respond to global scarcities—and that no one really needs,” he argues.

Surge in Migrants at Canadian Border Focus of NY Times, WSJ Articles

A record surge of migrants crossing the Canadian border from the U.S. is the focus of recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

 “The number of arrests along the Canadian border remains a fraction of those from the southwest border, but federal officials along the Canadian border have said they have never before seen this volume of arrests,” wrote Alicia Caldwell in the WSJ.

“Shielded by geography, strict immigration policies favoring the educated and skilled, and its single border with the United States, Canada is now being forced to deal with an issue that has long bedeviled other wealthy Western nations: mass illegal border crossings by land,” reports Norimitsu Onishi in the New York Times.

Thousands of asylum seekers “crossing irregularly into Canada from the United States along a dirt path are becoming a political flashpoint once more as the provincial government of Quebec says it can no longer accommodate the rising numbers,” Al Jazeera reported.

More Than 60 Refugees Die Off the Coast of Italy

More than 60 people have died after a wooden boat believed to be carrying refugees crashed off the coast of Italy’s Calabria region. Twelve of the refugees who died were children.

“Wooden debris from the shattered boat was still being buffeted by rough seas, pushed up along the coast and strewn across the beach in southern Italy on Monday morning — grim evidence of the tragic end of a journey that scores of people hoped would deliver them to a better life,” CBS News reported.

The vessel had set sail from Turkey several days ago with refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and several other countries, and crashed on Sunday in stormy weather near Steccato di Cutro, a seaside resort on the eastern coast of Calabria, Al Jazeera reported.

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni “has concentrated on complicating efforts by humanitarian boats to make multiple rescues in the central Mediterranean by assigning them ports of disembarkation along Italy’s northern coasts. That means the vessels need more time to return to the sea after bringing migrants aboard and taking them safely to shore.” (NPR).

BBC Examines How Ukraine Helped the US Rethink Refugee Policy

In a recent article for the BBC, Bernd Debusmann Jr. takes a closer look at Uniting For Ukraine, a U.S. government program that allows Americans to sponsor Ukrainians to come to the US for up to two years. The program, “which has been considered a resounding success, has led to the Biden administration announcing similar initiatives for refugees from other countries,” writes Debusmann.

Under Uniting for Ukraine, sponsors are supposed to help provide financial support for basic needs such as housing and health care, “but participants and activists say the initiative has led to bonds being formed between refugees and their sponsors that often go far beyond their initial commitments,” the article notes.

The Biden administration recently announced that sponsors could help bring in 30,000 people a month from Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela for a period of up to two years, the article said.

And in January, the Biden administration unveiled Welcome Corps, “which seeks to mobilize 10,000 Americans to help 5,000 refugees from around the globe come to the US.”

New Yorker Highlights New Welcome Corps Refugee Effort in the U.S.

In a recent New Yorker article, Geraldo Cadava provides important context about the new Welcome Corps program unveiled by the State Department in January.

“Under the plan, groups of five or more American citizens or permanent residents can apply to privately sponsor the resettlement of refugees,” writes Cadava.

The Welcome Corps will not replace existing refugee support groups, he notes. Instead, “it will provide an additional avenue for Americans to participate in resettlement, helping to place refugees in areas of the country where resettlement agencies don’t work, and shift some of the expense to private citizens.”

Click here for the article.

18 Migrants Found Dead in Truck in Bulgaria

At least 18 migrants have been found dead in Bulgaria in an abandoned truck near the capital Sofia, Al Jazeera reported on Feb. 17.

“The truck was transporting timber and carrying refugees and migrants hidden in a compartment, the country’s interior ministry said in a statement on Friday,” Al Jazeera reported.

“The Interior Ministry said that, according to initial information, the truck was carrying about 40 migrants. The survivors were taken to nearby hospitals for emergency treatment,” the New York Times reported.

Four Weeks on a Migrant Rescue Ship

In August 2022, Jérôme Tubiana and Khaled Mattawa boarded the Geo Barents, a rescue vessel run by Doctors Without Borders, and participated in the rescue of migrants on the Mediterranean Sea.

They detailed their experiences through diary entries recently published in the New York Review of Books.

Along with describing the perilous journeys of the migrants that are rescued, Tubiana and Mattawa detail how the European Union is working with the Libyan Coast Guard to prevent the arrival of migrants to Europe.

“The EU perceives its policy in the Central Mediterranean as a success. Arrivals from Libya decreased from 165,000 in 2016 to seven thousand in 2019, and arrivals between 2017 and 2021 combined barely exceeded those of 2016 alone,” writes Tubiana in one of his diary entries. “On the other hand, the rate of migrants returned to Libya increased during the same period from 7 percent to nearly 50 percent. In the past decade, over 20,000 died in the Central Mediterranean.”

A number of the rescued migrants describe in detail being kidnapped, trafficked and held for ransom in Libya.

Click here for the New York Review of Books piece (requires subscription).

Mattawa teaches creative writing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and is the editor of Michigan Quarterly Review.

Tubiana has advised Médecins Sans Frontières’s programs for migrants and refugees since 2018.