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The Refugee Brief – 21 January 2020

By Kristy Siegfried | 21 January, 2020


Children go missing as Central Americans attempt to cross Mexican border. Hundreds of Central American migrants and asylum-seekers waded across the Suchiate River into southern Mexico on Monday after being blocked from crossing en masse over the border bridge. In chaotic scenes, some mothers were separated from young children, according to media reports. Mexican authorities attempted to stop the crossings, but the National Migration Institute said it had detained 402 of the mainly Honduran migrants who managed to cross and would return them to their home countries if their legal status could not be resolved. Over the weekend, at least 2,000 Central Americans were camped in the Guatemalan border town of Tecun Uman hoping to cross into Mexico.

Humanitarian hub in north-eastern Nigeria attacked by militants. Heavily armed militants attacked a facility housing aid workers in north-east Nigeria at the weekend in what the UN described on Monday as the latest in a series of recent incidents targeting humanitarian facilities and staff. While staff managed to escape unharmed, much of the facility was burned down and several UN vehicles were destroyed. Witnesses told Reuters that at least 20 displaced people awaiting assistance were killed in the attack, which took place in the town Ngala, near the border with Cameroon. Edward Kallon, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said such incidents were having a “disastrous effect” on vulnerable people who rely on humanitarian assistance. In 2019, over 10,000 people arrived in Ngala, having fled violence in their home areas.


Teenage boy latest to die in Libyan detention centre. The Guardian reports that a 16-year-old Eritrean boy died in Sabaa detention centre in Tripoli on 12 January of an unknown illness that went untreated. The boy had reportedly been in detention for more than a year after attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in April 2018. Other detainees at Sabaa told The Guardian there was not enough food and water and said they had been forced to work for the militia running the facility in return for food. UNHCR said its staff had not been able to visit Sabaa since December due to worsening security conditions. Speaking at an event in Berlin on Thursday, UNHCR’s special envoy for the Central Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, explained that the agency’s access to detention centres in Libya was very unpredictable.

UK House of Lords set to vote on amendment to Brexit Bill affecting lone refugee children. The upper house will today debate the government’s decision earlier this month to remove an amendment from the EU withdrawal bill that would have required it to negotiate similar arrangements after Brexit to those currently in place that allow asylum-seekers in Europe to reunite with family members in another EU country. Lord Alf Dubs, who sponsored the amendment, writes that the vote will be hugely important for the rights of unaccompanied refugee children stranded in Calais and on the Greek islands, often in grim conditions. Al Jazeera talked to some of the 400 unaccompanied children living in an overcrowded reception centre for asylum-seekers on the Greek island of Samos, including a handful who hope to join family in the UK.

Conflict and refugee returns fuel Afghanistan displacement. More than 437,000 Afghans fled their homes in 2019 due to fighting, according to figures released last week by the UN’s humanitarian coordination arm, OCHA. Meanwhile, 465,000 Afghan refugees returned to the country from neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, OCHA said, and another 22,000 were deported from Turkey. Internal displacement and returns are closely linked in Afghanistan, reports The New Humanitarian, with many Afghan refugees returning to find their homes behind conflict lines. In a January report, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre noted that the majority of returnees “live a life of internal displacement” in rapidly expanding settlements around the capital, Kabul, and other urban areas.

How aid groups map informal refugee settlements in Lebanon. Wired reports on an initiative by Switzerland-based NGO Medair to map the locations of more than 6,000 informal settlements in Lebanon which are home to some 300,000 Syrian refugees. Mapping teams criss-cross the country year-round, stopping at each settlement to speak to residents. The coordinates of new settlements or changes in the population are entered into a database that’s shared with UNHCR and other NGOs. Aid workers heading to the field to distribute aid or respond to emergencies can then download maps via a mobile app. The maps were crucial during last year’s severe winter storms, which left many settlements flooded and in need of fresh mattresses and blankets.


This heart-warming twitter thread describes how local people in the Canadian town of St. Johns, Newfoundland, took action to ensure that a recently resettled Syrian boy could play ice hockey with his classmates.


Some 440,000 Afghans returned to their country from Iran in 2019, while 25,300 returned from Pakistan.

The Refugee Brief – 20 January 2020

By Kristy Siegfried | 20 January, 2020 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW “Humanitarian nightmare” in Libya must be averted, says UN chief. Speaking at a high-level summit on Libya in Berlin on Sunday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the worsening conflict was already...

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The Refugee Brief – 17 January 2020

By Kristy Siegfried | 17 January, 2020 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Millions of Syrian children “robbed of their childhood”, says UN. Nearly nine years of war in Syria have robbed boys and girls of their childhood and left them vulnerable to rights violations, violence,...

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The Refugee Brief – 16 January 2020

By Kristy Siegfried | 16 January, 2020 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW US judge blocks executive order on refugee resettlement. A US federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked an executive order announced by President Donald Trump in September that allowed state and local...

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The Refugee Brief – 15 January 2020

By Kristy Siegfried | 15 January, 2020 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Greek islands to strike over government handling of refugees and migrants. The Aegean islands of Chios, Lesvos and Samos will shut all commercial and state services on 22 January in a protest against the...

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The Refugee Brief – 14 January 2020

By Kristy Siegfried | 14 January, 2020 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Nearly 1,000 people returned to Libyan shores in first two weeks of year. At least 953 people have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya in the first two weeks of 2020, according to the UN’s...

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The Refugee Brief – 13 January 2020

By Kristy Siegfried | 13 January, 2020 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Security Council authorizes scaled-back cross-border aid into Syria. Hours before a midnight deadline, the UN Security voted on Friday evening to renew cross-border aid into Syria, but re-authorized only two...

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The Refugee Brief – 10 January 2020

By Kristy Siegfried | 10 January, 2020 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Syria cross-border aid under threat. A six-year-long UN operation that delivers aid across the Syrian border will expire at midnight unless the divided UN Security Council votes to extend it this afternoon....

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The Refugee Brief – 9 January 2020

By Kristy Siegfried | 9 January, 2020 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Aid agencies rush to respond to crisis in Sudan’s Darfur. Humanitarian agencies are rushing aid to some 40,000 people displaced in recent weeks by clashes between rival ethnic groups in El Geneina, West...

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The Refugee Brief – 8 January 2020

By Kristy Siegfried | 8 January, 2020 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Libya crisis intensifies. Libyan rebels seized control of the key coastal city of Sirte on Monday amid criticism about the growing role of foreign powers in fuelling a recent escalation in fighting. Following...

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