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Weekly News Digest


Compiled by Sara Anis Ali, Grey Cohen, Hayes Orr, Quinn Phillips, Ryan Simons, and Tobyn Smith

Edited by Sara Anis Ali, Hayes Orr, Quinn Phillips, Meagan McColloch, Niamh Dempsey


Central America and the Caribbean

U.S. Deports Haitian Nationals Despite Ongoing Gang Crisis

The United States has resumed deportation flights to Haiti despite a surge in gang violence and instability in the country. Dozens of Haitians have been sent back to their home country, with advocates saying that continuing to deport Haitian nationals “could be a death sentence.” A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that one of its agencies “conducted a repatriation flight of around 50 Haitian nationals to Haiti”. The DHS added that only individuals found to have entered the U.S. illegally have been sent back. 


The flight is reported to have left Louisiana and is scheduled to land in Miami, Florida, before landing in Cap-Haïtien. Human rights advocates have condemned the move, citing the deadly situation Haitians will face in their home country. Haiti has experienced a surge in violent crime, and gangs have filled much of the power vacuum that was left behind after the assassination of President Jovenel Mouse in July 2021. 


The dire situation escalated in February when gangs attacked police stations, prisons, and other government institutions across the capital, Port-au-Prince. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians have been displaced due to the crisis as the violence in Port-au-Prince has not abated. As a result, rights advocates have been calling on the U.S. to stop deportations to Haiti since the Coast Guard sent 65 Haitian migrants back to Haiti on March 12th.


Europe

European Union Tightens Migration Regulations 

This week, lawmakers passed considerable reforms to the European Union (EU) migration policies, set to take effect as soon as 2026. These reforms are intended to help reduce the burden of countries that take in large swarms of asylum seekers by introducing a shared burden across all 27 members of the EU. Countries struggling to take in asylum seekers can also ask for them to be distributed across EU member states. This new plan was initially proposed following the 2015 migration crisis, where many citizens of war-stricken countries like Syria came to Europe for refuge. However, the plan has taken many years to pass as a result of the bureaucratic nature of the bloc. The controversial conditions of the new law mean that countries in the South of Europe (such as Italy and Greece) are being requested to build detention centers to hold excess migrants. These centers are similar to those near the United States' southern border. 


This new deal is not short of complaints from both the right and left. Martin Nyman, a senior legal advisor at Civil Rights Defenders, argues that this new deal will “worsen the situation” and instead, “people will be prevented from seeking and receiving protection from war and prosecution.” On the other hand, far-right lawmakers suggested that the reforms didn’t go far enough in protecting borders, expressing concerns that immigration will carry on “submerging” European identity. Despite these hurdles, all the components of the deal passed. Migration is one of the critical issues for the upcoming European elections. The eagerness among current lawmakers to pass this deal before that is just a testament to its importance. 


Middle East and North Africa

Humanitarian Crisis Looms in Sudan

Since the onset of civil war in Sudan, the nation has been in turmoil as the humanitarian crisis escalates. The war began nearly a year ago when the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) failed to reach a consensus over sharing power. Now as the war progresses into its second year, the nation seems to be on the brink of collapse. 


Sudan has been turbulent since the ousting of former president, Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for thirty years. While popular protests led to the ousting of Omar al-Bashir, the fragile civilian government failed, making way for a military coup. The two leaders who orchestrated the coup, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and RSF paramilitary leader Mohamed Dagalo, known as Hemedti, began a power-sharing government. As disagreements between the Sudanese military and RSF arose, fighting soon broke out, opening a chapter of violence and conflict in Sudan. 


The ongoing war between the military groups has pushed the humanitarian crisis to an all-time high. However, the current crises did not begin with the current civil war, rather it is the result of continuing conflict that has gripped the nation since independence. The country has faced numerous troubles during its existence, starting with the creation of the state and irredentist movements that began soon after. However, since the Darfur crisis in 2003, when the government engaged in a genocidal campaign against its non-Arab populations, the country has suffered immense humanitarian emergencies. Issues of displacement, food insecurity, violence, and general uncertainty plagued the oil-rich nation, and the current power struggle only further exacerbates the issue.


Since neither the military nor the RSF can successfully defeat their rival, fighting continues and international concerns continue to grow as fighting reaches new heights, particularly affecting the capital, Khartoum. Despite concerns about the escalation of fighting, international intervention efforts have failed to get both warring parties to pause fighting for a humanitarian ceasefire. 


North America

Johnson Proposes Foreign Aid Bill Despite Dissent from Right-Wing Republicans

This week, House Speaker Mike Johnson announced plans to bring forward the stalled foreign aid bill addressing aid for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, and others. In light of last weekend's attacks on Israel by Iran, the Speaker has faced pressure to finally allow the House to vote on foreign aid. The package includes $95 billion in aid, equivalent to the Senate aid package passed in February. Johnson plans to bring this bill forward in three separate pieces: one bill on Israel, one bill on Ukraine, and one bill on Taiwan and other allies. Along with these three bills will be a fourth one that specifically includes popular Republican policies to pay back the aid bills. These measures include Ukraine aid as a loan, seizing Russian assets, banning TikTok, and placing sanctions on Iran. 


The Ukraine aid package totals $61 billion and includes $20 million for replenishing U.S. weapons and ammunitions, $13.8 billion to purchase weapons from the U.S., and $9 billion in economic assistance as “forgivable loans.” The Israel aid totals $26 billion and includes $4 billion to replenish Israel’s missile defense system, $2.4 billion for U.S. operations in the region, and $9 billion for humanitarian assistance in Gaza. The Taiwan and others bill totals $8 billion to help Indo-Pacific allies deter China. 


Speaker Johnson faces an uphill battle as many in his party are against sending additional aid to Ukraine. With such a slim majority in the House, Johnson could easily be ousted if he brings these bills forward. Specifically, spectators are looking at Georgia Representative Majorie Taylor Greene, who has indicated she would move to depose Johnson if he brought Ukraine aid to a vote. To pass any of these measures, Johnson will have to knit together various bipartisan groups to overcome Republicans who are against Ukraine aid and Democrats who are against Israel aid. Biden endorsed Johnson’s plan to get aid to these countries and the vote is planned to take place this weekend.


South America

United States Reimposes Oil Sanctions on Venezuela 

On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced it would reimpose oil sanctions on Venezuela by allowing GL 44, a license that offered temporary relief to Venezuela's oil and gas sector, to expire on Thursday. The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC) issued the license, and it stated that the renewal of the license was contingent upon progress in talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition parties, regarding unrestricted participation of all presidential candidates in the 2024 presidential election. The OFAC opted not to renew GL 44, indicating that the Biden administration determined that President Nicolás Maduro’s government failed to meet election commitments. In an updated set of guidelines, U.S. government officials gave companies 45 days to "wind down" their business and transactions in Venezuela’s oil and gas sector.


The Trump administration first imposed sanctions on Venezuela's oil industry in 2019 following Maduro's re-election victory, which the U.S. and other Western governments viewed as illegitimate. In response to the Venezuelan government's promises of electoral transparency at a Barbados summit, the U.S. Treasury Department issued GL 44 in October 2023. President Maduro scheduled an election for July, inviting international observers to monitor voting. However, in March of this year, Maduro’s government banned opposition leader María Corina Machado from running in the election. Maduro’s actions led the Biden administration to reimpose sanctions, returning U.S. policy to what it was before the Barbados agreement. This makes it illegal for American companies to do business with state-run oil producer Petróleos de Venezuela S.A., without a specific license from the U.S. Treasury Department.


In response, Jorge Rodriguez, the head of Venezuela's legislature, insisted that Caracas had met the conditions of last year's deal. He expressed the Venezuelan government's opinion by stating that the return of U.S. sanctions was “a harmful action against Venezuela.” Other Venezuelan officials including Oil Minister Pedro Tellechea communicated a desire to keep working with foreign oil companies saying, "We are open (for business) and willing to keep progressing along with all foreign companies that want to come.” Last month, Venezuela's oil exports reached their highest level in four years as companies rushed to complete purchases ahead of the predicted expiration of GL 44. Venezuela is a founding member of OPEC and sits atop one of the world's largest oil reserves. Since the U.S. first imposed sanctions in 2019, Venezuela has increasingly relied on exports to India and China to support its struggling economy.  


Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenyan Doctors Gather for Fifth Week of Strikes

On Tuesday, hundreds of Kenyan medical practitioners gathered in Nairobi to protest the government’s failure to uphold promises made in 2017. The protests are part of a strike that has reached its fifth week. The 2017 deal was arranged after 100 days of striking by medical professionals across the country.


The 2017 deal arranged for collective bargaining mechanisms that medical practitioners say have not been implemented. The striking workers also demand better pay and the hiring of more trainees, part of a pathway required to become a licensed doctor. The strikes have left medical facilities empty, leading to major problems for those who need medical attention. The picketing professionals say they are aware of the issues their strike has created, but they are campaigning for better healthcare services in the future.


Four thousand medics have joined the strike, which is being supported by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has pressured the government to resolve this issue quickly. There does not seem to be an end in sight for the strike, as Kenyan President William Ruto has stated his government is not willing to budge on its position.

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