By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried | 5 June, 2018
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
EU ministers debate reform of asylum rules. EU interior ministers meet in Luxembourg today to discuss proposals for reforming the Dublin regulation ahead of a deadline at the end of June, when leaders will meet in Brussels. Under existing rules, most asylum-seekers must apply in the first member state where they arrived. The system has put disproportionate pressure on frontline countries such as Greece and Italy, but several Eastern European countries have resisted attempts to distribute asylum-seekers between member states using a quota system. AFP reports that the latest proposal from Bulgaria, which holds the EU presidency until the end of the month, aims to curb secondary movements and calls for the compulsory relocation of asylum-seekers only as a last resort. Politico reports that Italy’s new government has already made clear its opposition to the proposal and that member states still have some way to go if they are to reach an agreement by the end of the month.
Suffering in South Sudan “on almost unimaginable scale”. The UN’s emergency relief chief, Mark Lowcock, told reporters in Geneva on Monday that five years of civil war have left 7.1 million people in South Sudan in need of humanitarian aid and that “things are still getting worse ”. He noted that peace negotiations have repeatedly broken down, most recently in Addis Ababa, and that declarations of ceasefires were “a fiction”. The conflict has rendered formerly fertile areas of the country barren, and famine has so far been staved off only by the efforts of aid agencies. But the UN’s $1.7 billion humanitarian response plan for this year is less than a quarter funded. Efforts to assist the more than 2.4 million South Sudanese who have fled to other countries in the region are facing a critical funding shortfall of nearly $800 million. “We are in a very challenging moment,” Arnauld Akodjenou, regional refugee coordinator and UNHCR’s special advisor for South Sudan, told Reuters on Friday. Lowcock said he welcomed the recent announcement by the White House that the US is conducting a review of its assistance to South Sudan.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
Five myths about the refugee crisis. In this long-read for The Guardian, Daniel Trilling deconstructs some of the myths about refugees that have shaped European policy and public opinion in recent years. Characterizing the sharp rise in the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe as a crisis that began in 2015 and ended in 2016 is misleading, he argues. “The crisis is not only the movement of refugees, but the border systems designed to keep them out – and it is still happening” he writes. Trilling also takes on the myth of the “bogus asylum-seeker” and the idea that refugees and migrants pose a threat to European values.
Turkey expands efforts to end child labour to Syrian refugees. The Turkish government has declared 2018 as the year to fight child labour, which affects significant numbers of both Turkish and Syrian children. A national scheme introduced in 2003 has been giving small monthly cash transfers to impoverished Turkish families who keep their children in school. With funding from the European Commission, Norway and the United States, that scheme was extended to include refugee families last May. Over 330,000 Syrian children have reportedly benefited from the scheme since then, the EU Observer reports, but many older children are still dropping out of school to help support their families.
Afghans fleeing conflict face worsening hunger. With drought affecting two out of three provinces in Afghanistan, the Norwegian Refugee Council warns that families displaced by conflict in the north and west of the country are particularly at risk. In a survey carried out by the NRC in January, one in two displaced Afghans said they could not adequately feed their families and were often skipping meals. More than one million Afghans have been newly displaced by conflict in the past two years.
Somali refugees take up fight against plastic waste. On World Environment Day, Thompson Reuters Foundation reports on a waste recycling project set up by the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) at Dadaab refugee camp near the Somali border. Eight refugee staff have helped recycle six tonnes of plastic waste since the project started one year ago, generating some 160,000 Kenyan shillings ($1,580) in revenue. KRCS believes plastic recycling holds potential as a sustainable business for refugees and that similar projects could be implemented in other large refugee camps in the region.
In informal tented settlements for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a “shawish” is the person nominated by other refugees to act as the settlement’s supervisor and decision-maker. It’s an unpaid role traditionally assigned to men, but in one settlement in northern Bekaa Valley, the shawish is Ayla , a 50-year-old woman. She ensures that aid is evenly distributed among the refugees and that any conflicts are resolved. “I do it to help others,” she says. “It can be challenging sometimes, but it gives me a tremendous sense of purpose and pride.”
DID YOU KNOW?
In the first four months of 2018, more than 60,000 South Sudanese fled to other countries in the region.