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By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   |  18 October, 2018

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

EU leaders urged to tackle Mediterranean deaths. As EU leaders prepare to once again debate the issue of asylum and migration in Brussels today, discussions are expected to focus on boosting cooperation with countries of origin and transit in North Africa, stepping up the fight against smugglers and reforms of the Common European Asylum System. Ahead of the talks, the UN’s refugee and migration agencies warned that a “dangerously toxic ” political discourse about refugees and migrants is stoking unnecessary fears and making it harder for European countries to work together to address this year’s record rate of drownings in the Mediterranean. “The current tenor of the political debate – painting a picture of Europe under siege – is not only unhelpful but completely out of touch with reality,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “Arrival numbers are falling but the rate at which people are losing their lives is on the rise.” UNHCR and IOM urged European leaders to focus today’s discussions on practical solutions for sharing responsibilities for search-and-rescue and disembarkation between member states.

Hundreds at risk of starvation in Syrian border camp. Activists say that 15 people have died in the past two weeks since smuggling routes into Rukban camp on the border between Syria and Jordan have been restricted. Some 50,000 people, most of them women and children, live in the isolated settlement where they have been relying on food smuggled into the camp from other parts of Syria since being cut off from aid deliveries in January. UNHCR spokesperson Rula Amin told the Independent that “there is real hunger and severe malnutrition” at the camp. She added that with the harsh desert winter approaching, conditions are expected to worsen. The UN announced yesterday that it has been given the greenlight by Damascus to enter the camp. Preparations are underway for the first aid convoy in nine months to reach Rukban in the next few days.


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR

UNHCR evacuates vulnerable refugees as clashes erupt in Tripoli. Amidst renewed clashes between rival militias in Tripoli, UNHCR staff managed to evacuate 135 people out of Libya to Niger on Tuesday night. Many had been held in detention centres for months and were suffering from malnutrition and poor health. Another 85 refugees departed for Romania where they will spend a few days in a transit facility before continuing to Norway for resettlement. The evacuations were the first since June, amidst concerns that arrivals to Niger were outpacing offers of resettlement by third countries. In a statement today, UNHCR implored resettlement countries to speed up their procedures and offer more places so more evacuations can be carried out.

Following in the footsteps of Venezuelans trekking through South America. The most desperate of the nearly two million Venezuelans who have fled their country since 2015 cannot afford bus or plane tickets, and so they travel mainly on foot, relying on the kindness of strangers. A team of AP journalists spent nine days following a Venezuelan mother and her daughter as they crossed three borders and trekked nearly 3,500 kilometres to reach Lima, Peru. This second report compiles some of the people, places and dangers they encountered along the way, including frigid mountain passes, public parks turned into makeshift shelters and border crossings full of Venezuelan families.

More than 200 refugees and asylum-seekers arrested in Thailand, says rights group. Human rights NGO, Fortify Rights, has accused Thai authorities of arresting hundreds of refugees during immigration raids in Bangkok during the last two months. Those arrested, including children, are reportedly being detained in the Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Center on allegations of illegally entering and staying in the country. Although Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, asylum-seekers can register with UNHCR. Among those being detained are some 180 “persons of concern” to UNHCR from Cambodia and Vietnam.

The “peaceful” refugee camp run by locals on Lesvos. While Moria reception centre on the Greek island of Lesvos continues to make headlines for over-crowding and dire conditions, a short distance away is Pikpa — a small “open” camp run by a group of Lesvos residents since 2012. Al Jazeera spoke to Elfi Latsoudi, one of Pikpa’s founding members and joint winner of the 2016 Nansen Refugee Award, about its beginnings on the grounds of a children’s summer camp and how Pikpa continues to provide a respite for some of the most vulnerable, including families with children, those with serious medical conditions and pregnant women. Funded by private donations, Latsoudi says the camps operates independently of local and national authorities and has become “a symbol of solidarity”.


GET INSPIRED

This story by the Arizona Republic profiles Germain Dosseh, who fled Togo as a boy and spent the 15 years in Ghanian refugee camps before being resettled to the United States. He served in the US Army in Afghanistan before joining the police force in Phoenix. Dosseh says signing up for a career in law enforcement was his way of paying back the country that gave him the opportunity to thrive.


DID YOU KNOW?

One person died or went missing for every eight who crossed the Central Mediterranean to Europe in September.