By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried | 6 June, 2018
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Myanmar and UN sign agreement on initial steps for Rohingya returns. UNHCR, the UN Development Programme and the Myanmar government signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Nay Pyi Taw on Wednesday. UNHCR described the MoU as “a first and necessary step to establish a framework for cooperation between the UN and the Government aimed at creating conducive conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh”. Knut Ostby, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, said the agreement is an important first step towards resolving the crisis.
EU ministers fail to reach agreement on changes to asylum rules. Reuters reports that EU ministers fell short on Tuesday in their efforts to reach a compromise on reforms to the bloc’s asylum rules. A proposal drawn up by Bulgaria, which holds the EU presidency, was rejected by several countries at a meeting in Luxembourg. Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration issues, said that agreeing on a new system for member states to share responsibility for asylum-seekers would take time. Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, yesterday called for “an automatic system of compulsory distribution of asylum-seekers” among member states. EU leaders in December set an end-of-June deadline for an overhaul of the Dublin regulation to create a permanent redistribution mechanism for migrants and asylum-seekers. The Financial Times reports that failure to meet the deadline could give Austria, which takes over the EU presidency next month, scope to push for a more hardline approach, including strengthening the EU’s external borders.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
Death toll from Tunisian shipwreck may reach 112. More details have emerged about the boat that sank off the coast of Tunisia on Saturday night, suggesting the incident could be the deadliest in the Mediterranean so far this year. According to Tunisian officials, the overcrowded boat broke down and began sinking two hours after departing from the Kerkennah Islands. The Tunisian coast guard rescued 68 people from the water and found 52 dead, but some 60 people are still missing at sea and presumed dead. UNHCR said it was counselling survivors and assessing their protection needs.
Why has an anti-immigrant NGO from Germany set up shop in Lebanon? Al Jazeera reports on the Alternative Help Association, or AHA!, founded last year by the far-right German Identity Movement, which has started a project working with refugees in Lebanon . According to Al Jazeera, the aim of the project is to discourage the refugees from moving on to Europe. The identitarian movement was also behind last summer’s crowdfunded campaign to disrupt charity vessels rescuing migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean. AHA! says it seeks to give a new “patriotic” face to humanitarian aid. “It is dangerous to have inexperienced, extremist groups launching initiatives focusing on refugees,” Catherine Woollard, secretary-general of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, told Al Jazeera.
Syrian students create new life in Mexico. The Christian Science Monitor reports from Aguascalientes, Mexico, where a small group of Syrian students are spending their first nine months in the country taking classes in Mexican history and culture and studying Spanish. They are among 14 Syrians brought to Mexico since 2015 through The Habesha Project , an NGO that offers academic scholarships and living expenses for promising students whose education was interrupted by the conflict in Syria. “Mexico has opened my mind,” says Alahmed, one of the Syrian students. “When you meet people, they teach you about other cultures and you expand your perspective.”
Mary Nyiriak Maker is a teacher and refugee from South Sudan who believes in the power of education as a tool for building peace and rebuilding lives. She’s one of the speakers at this Saturday’s TEDx event at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya – the first TEDx to be held at a refugee camp. Other speakers include fashion model Halima Aden, who was born in Kakuma; Pur Biel, a runner who competed at Rio 2016 as part of the Refugee Olympic Team; and Congolese filmmaker Hortence Aminah Rwimo. A secondary school at the camp will serve as a venue for the event, which will also be live-streamed to audiences worldwide.
DID YOU KNOW?
13,706 migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy by boat this year, as of 3 June. During the same period in 2017, Italy recorded more than 60,394 sea arrivals.