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By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   | 21 February, 2018

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Situation in Eastern Ghouta “catastrophic”. Amid what observers are describing as the worst violence in the Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus since a chemical weapons attack in 2013, at least 250 people have been killed since Sunday night and 1,200 wounded. The death toll includes more than 50 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group. On Tuesday, UNICEF issued ablank “statement” with the explanation: “We no longer have the words to describe children’s suffering and our outrage.” The UN’s co-ordinator in Syria, Panos Moumtzis said he was “appalled” by the “spiralling violence”, including reports of attacks against six hospitals in the area. Medical supplies were already in short supply due to a siege on the rebel-held area that has been in place since 2013. More than 350,000 civilians remain trapped in Eastern Ghouta.

Verification of refugee numbers gets underway in Uganda.With investigations underway into accusations that Ugandan officials inflated refugee numbers to divert aid, UNHCR announced plans on Tuesday to re-register all refugees in the country using the agency’s tried and tested biometric system. The nation-wide re-enrolment process is expected to be completed by September. Uganda continues to receive refugees from multiple crises including South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR

Israel imprisons asylum-seekers who refuse deportation.Asylum-seekers at Holot detention facility began a hunger strike on Tuesday night to protest the imprisonment earlier in the day of seven Eritreans who refused to leave Israel. According to Haaretz, it was the first instance of Israel jailing asylum-seekers for refusing deportation under new rules announced in January. The men had been held at Holot and were among the first to receive deportation notices a month ago.

France considers controversial asylum laws. A new bill will be presented to President Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet on Wednesday. The proposed law aims to cut the time it takes to process asylum applications from 11 months to six and to send home those who don’t qualify for refugee status more quickly. It would double the time that migrants could be legally detained to 90 days and impose tighter deadlines for appealing a negative refugee decision.

Libyans blocked from returning home “dying in the desert”.Over 200 families who were attempting to return to their homes in the northern town of Tawergha remain stranded in the desert after their return was blocked by armed groups several weeks ago. In a statement on Tuesday, the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced people, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary called on Libya to ensure their safety , noting that two people had already died from strokes, possibly as a result of the harsh weather and living conditions.

A Tuscan village is reshaped by migration. Gaia Pianigiani, like many Italians of her generation, left her childhood village in search of work in one of Italy’s big cities. Now migrants and refugees tend many of the fields in her region and care for the elderly. She writes for the New York Times about how this monumental shift is being felt in villages like her own as the government has sought to ease pressure on reception facilities in Sicily and distribute asylum-seekers to other areas of the country. While many Italians have opened their hearts and homes to migrants, resistance and anger has bubbled up in some areas.


GET INSPIRED

Mohammed Kteish began imagining a better future for his home city of Aleppo by constructing a cityscape of his own from paper on the rooftop of his building. He had to abandon the model when his family fled the city in 2015, but now he’s showing other refugee children in Turkey how to build their own paper cities. Through a project called Future Aleppo, their creations are transformed into virtual reality worlds.


DID YOU KNOW?

As of December 2017, attacks on health facilities left half of public hospitals across Syria partially functional or closed.