Select Page

The Refugee Brief, 22 October 2021

By Kristy Siegfried | 22 October, 2021


Standoff at Belarus-EU border leaves asylum-seekers stranded. A group of 32 Afghan asylum-seekers, including women and children, are among several groups of people stranded in border areas between Belarus and Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Some have spent weeks in increasingly dire and freezing conditions in border regions, being repeatedly pushed back when they attempt to cross borders and prevented from applying for asylum. UNHCR warned today that their situation will further deteriorate as winter approaches. Polish divers on Wednesday afternoon recovered the body of a 19-year-old Syrian man from the River Bug near the Belarus border, bringing the number of deaths at the border to eight in the past month. UNHCR’s regional director for Europe, Pascale Moreau said the lives of others were “precariously hanging in the balance … held hostage by a political stalemate, which needs to be solved now”. The agency urged the countries concerned to abide by their international legal obligations to provide access to asylum for those seeking it at their borders.

South Sudan hit by third year of extreme flooding. The worst flooding that parts of South Sudan have seen in 60 years has impacted over 700,000 people across the country, according to UNHCR. After weeks of heavy rains, the floods have swept away homes and inundated farmland, forcing families and livestock to flee to higher ground and neighbouring towns. Others are marooned on islands surrounded by water, unable to cross to safety. UNHCR’s representative in South Sudan, Arafat Jamal said the country was “on the frontline of the climate emergency, where the people are the collateral damage of a battle they did not pick”. Many of those affected were still struggling to recover from two previous years of flooding. With rains expected to continue for the remainder of the year, UNHCR warned that increasing numbers of people will need humanitarian assistance, particularly following the loss of crops and livestock.

Thousands flee Myanmar for India. The New York Times reports that increasing numbers of people in northwest Myanmar are fleeing clashes between the military and armed groups by crossing the border into neighbouring India. Since the army seized control in Myanmar eight months ago, roughly 15,000 people have crossed into India, according to UNHCR, including 5,000 who fled recent clashes. The new arrivals said they had fled attacks on their villages and slept in the forest for days before crossing the Tiau River that marks the border. Much of the recent exodus has been from Chin State, which borders the Indian state of Mizoram. Locals in Mizoram, many of whom are ethnic Chin, have been unofficially helping those fleeing Myanmar. Separately, The New Humanitarian reports that poverty and insecurity are soaring in Myanmar’s Dry Zone and Ayeyarwady Delta regions as costs of farming inputs rise and crop prices fall. A shrinking economy is reportedly worsening food insecurity across the country.


UN sets up fund to provide cash directly to Afghans. The UN said on Thursday it had set up a special trust fund to provide urgently needed cash directly to Afghans through a system that would tap into donor funds frozen since the Taliban took control of the country in August. The UN Development Fund (UNDP) said the aim was to inject cash into the “imploding” economy to help Afghan households get through the winter and remain in their country. Germany was the first to contribute to the fund with a pledge of €50 million. Some 97 per cent of Afghan households could be living below the poverty line by mid-2022, according to UNDP. The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday that Afghanistan’s economy is set to contract by up to 30 per cent this year and that this could fuel further displacement across borders.

Kidnappings in Haiti underscore deteriorating security situation. The abduction of 17 missionaries in Port-au-Prince on Saturday highlighted a growing wave of kidnappings for ransom carried out by Haiti’s increasingly powerful gangs. Nearly 800 such incidents have been reported so far this year, according to the Haitian NGO Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights. Haitians mounted a nationwide strike on Monday to protest the kidnappings. The country’s already precarious security situation has deteriorated significantly since the assassination of President Jovenal Moïse in July, with rival gangs fighting to gain control. The rise in violence, combined with a dire economic situation, and a string of natural disasters in recent years have led to growing numbers of Haitians fleeing the country.

Shelling kills at least 11 people in Syria’s Idlib. At least 11 people, including several children on their way to school, were killed Wednesday by shelling of a market and surrounding areas in the city of Ariha in Idlib province. The bombardment took place shortly after a roadside bombing in Damascus killed at least 14 military personnel and is considered one of the deadliest to hit Idlib since a truce deal was reached in March 2020. UNICEF confirmed that four children and a teacher were among the dead. Separately, PBS Newshour reports on a severe wave of COVID-19 that is overwhelming hospitals in Idlib. The delta variant of the virus is hospitalizing young children already weakened by malnutrition while aid groups are struggling to deliver sufficient oxygen to displaced people sickened by the virus living in camps. Less than 1 per cent of people in Idlib are fully vaccinated.


Zohra was just 11 when she arrived in Ecuador with her family after fleeing Afghanistan. Adapting to a new culture and language was difficult until she discovered a way to express through her love of art. Through an after-school programme she paints murals on buildings in Quito that depict the refugee experience.


Of just over half a million internally displaced people in Myanmar, nearly half (219,000) have been displaced by conflict and unrest since 1 February this year.

The Refugee Brief – 15 October 2021

By Kristy Siegfried | 15 October, 2021 THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES Crisis deepens in Afghanistan as temperatures drop. Aid agencies delivered food, blankets and cash to thousands of displaced families in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan this week as humanitarians warned...

read more

The Refugee Brief – 8 October 2021

By Kristy Siegfried | 8 October, 2021 THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES Thousands of migrants and refugees detained by Libyan authorities. At least 5,000 migrants and refugees have been detained as part of a security operation launched by authorities in the Libyan capital,...

read more

The Refugee Brief – 1 October 2021

By Kristy Siegfried | 1 October, 2021 THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES Haitians returned from US and Mexico. CNN reports that the last remaining Haitian migrants and asylum-seekers who had crossed the US southern border in recent weeks and congregated under the Del Rio...

read more

The Refugee Brief – 24 September 2021

By Kristy Siegfried | 24 September, 2021 THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES Conditions worsen for Haitian migrants and asylum-seekers on the move. Conditions deteriorated this week on both sides of the US-Mexico border, where thousands of mostly Haitian migrants and...

read more

The Refugee Brief, 17 September 2021

By Kristy Siegfried | 17 September, 2021 THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES UN refugee chief calls for urgent international support for Afghans. Donors on Monday pledged more than US$1 billion in emergency aid to help avert an immediate humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The UN...

read more

The Refugee Brief – 10 September 2021

By Kristy Siegfried | 10 September, 2021 THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES France rejects UK plan to turn back boats carrying migrants and asylum-seekers. The UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel has approved plans for small boats carrying migrants and asylum-seekers across the...

read more

The Refugee Brief – 3 September 2021

By Kristy Siegfried | 3 September, 2021 THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES Humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. As the international evacuations from Kabul Airport ended this week, humanitarian agencies urged the world not to forget the millions of Afghans in need of...

read more

The Refugee Brief – 27 August 2021

By Kristy Siegfried | 27 August, 2021 THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES Kabul Airport attacks deepen humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The two suicide bombings near Kabul Airport on Thursday killed over 100 Afghans and 13 US soldiers and wounded many others, plunging the...

read more

The Refugee Brief – 20 August 2021

By Kristy Siegfried | 20 August, 2021 THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES Don’t forget humanitarian needs inside Afghanistan, says UNHCR. Five days after the Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, and took control of the country, the situation on the ground remains extremely...

read more