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Daily Brief: Greek Police Evacuate Refugee Camp on Macedonia Border

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May 24, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Greek Police Evacuate Refugee Camp on Macedonia Border

Greek riot police began to evacuate the Idomeni refugee camp on the Greek border with Macedonia, which closed its border in March. About 8,400 people mostly from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan (Al Jazeera) have been living at the camp; many had planned to cross into Macedonia to reach European countries farther north. Many refugees voluntarily boarded government buses to shelters near Greece's second largest city, Thessaloniki (NYT), and Greek authorities said the evacuation was going "smoothly." Some 54,000 migrants are stranded in Greece as Balkan and European countries close their borders. Meanwhile, the European Union also announced that member states' navies would begin training the Libyan coastguard as part of an anti-smuggling operation. The bloc expressed concerns that the Mediterranean route from Libya will see a surge in migrant crossings this summer (EU Observer).


"The options that post-March 20 arrivals [in Greece following an EU-Turkish migration deal] have are not to apply for asylum and be deported, or to apply for asylum that could be rejected or accepted. But if they are accepted, it doesn't mean they will be relocated to another EU country. They will be granted asylum in Greece and provided with a travel document. That is not what many risked their lives for. They want to reach richer countries in northern Europe. And some want to be reunited with their families who already arrived further north when the refugee trail was still open," Zeina Khodr writes for Al Jazeera.

"When Greece began its deportations of refugees to Turkey on April 4 under a deal between the EU and Ankara, Europe’s semi-panicked leaders began to think the worst of the migration crisis was over. But another problem was quietly re-emerging: In the first three months of 2016, 18,795 refugees attempted to make the journey across the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, an 85 percent increase from the same period the year before, according to the U.N.’s refugee agency," Mirren Gidda writes for Newsweek.

"Idomeni is home to roughly one-fifth of the 50,000 people stranded in Greece, a country that usually serves as a stepping stone on the road into the heart of Europe. The switch from a transit country to a forced destination, epitomized by the camp here, came about following Macedonia’s unilateral decision in March to close its border with Greece. A small village of 150 residents, mostly pensioners living in quiet retirement, Idomeni became host to the desperate travelers. While volunteers struggle to meet the needs of these communities, refugees stranded by E.U. policy are growing increasingly desperate," Eric Reidy writes for Refugees Deeply.


Obama Criticizes Vietnam's Rights Record

U.S. President Barack Obama met with members of Vietnamese civil society in Hanoi Tuesday and expressed concerns over "free speech, freedom of assembly, accountability with respect to government" in the country. He also noted that some activists were prevented from meeting with him (WSJ).  On Monday, Obama and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang vowed to increase cooperation in defense and promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (Viet Nam News).

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick discusses Vietnam's strategic importance to the United States and considerations of its human rights record in this blog post.

TAIWAN: The new government of Tsai Ing-wen dropped charges against 126 activists who had occupied a government building in 2014 in protests over a trade deal with China (NYT).


Following Referendum, No Limits on Tajik President, Family in Office

A referendum vote in Tajikistan will allow President Emomali Rakhmon and his children to lead the country (Al Jazeera) for an indefinite period of time and prohibited "faith-based" parties. The referendum's ballot proposed forty-one constitutional amendments (Eurasia Net).  

INDIA: Gunmen killed three police in two attacks in the Kashmiri city of Srinagar (Hindu), after which police reportedly killed two Islamist militants and arrested one (Hindu)


Rouhani Critic Elected Head of Iranian Oversight Body

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati was elected to head Iran's Assembly of Experts (Iran Daily), a body that is expected to choose a successor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Jannati is a critic of President Hassan Rouhani and his efforts to normalize relations with the West (Reuters).

CFR's Ray Takeyh and Reuel Marc Gerecht discuss Iran's theocratically managed democracy in this Foreign Affairs article.

TUNISIA: Rachid Ghannouchi was reelected as the head of the Ennahda party (NYT), Tunisia's main Islamic political party. The vote was seen as an endorsement of Ghannouchi's move of the party away from its Islamist origins and in line with the country's five-year-old democratic revolution.


Kenya Bucks Regional Economic Trends

Kenya cut its benchmark interest rate on Monday amid falling inflation and a "strong" outlook for future growth (FT). Separately, at least three demonstrators were reportedly killed in protests against Kenya's electoral commission over the body's perceived bias in favor of the ruling coalition (VOA).

SUDAN: Sudan and China inked an agreement to build the East African nation's first nuclear power plant (Sudan Tribune). Sudanese Finance Minister Badr al-Din Mahmoud also announced that China's investments in Sudan's oil industry have reached $17 billion. 


Strike at Eight French Oil Refineries

Unions organized strikes at all eight of France's oil refineries (Reuters) in protest over President Francois Hollande's reform of labor laws. The strike, which began over the weekend, has caused 1,500 of France's 12,000 petrol stations to run out or be low on fuel (France 24).


Recording Suggests Brazil Minister Pushed Impeachment to Staunch Corruption Probe

The planning minister in the cabinet of Brazil's interim President Michel Temer stepped down following an outcry over a leaked recording. In the conversation, the minister seemed to suggest impeaching President Dilma Rousseff would help contain an ongoing corruption probe ensnaring business and political leaders (FT).

CFR's Matthew Taylor discusses the move to impeach President Dilma Rousseff in this interview.

VENEZUELA: The vice president of Venezuela's ruling party said it would be "impossible" to hold a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro this year (LAHT), saying the legal procedure to do so would take at least 243 days.


Sanders Given Large Role in Crafting Democratic Platform

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D–VT) has named five of the fifteen members of the committee that will craft the Democratic Party’s 2016 platform, the party announced Monday (WaPo). Hillary Clinton named six members.

Track and compare the candidates’ views on climate change and other foreign policy issues with CFR’s interactive, The Candidates and the World.

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