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The Refugee Brief – 14 December 2018

By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   | 14 December, 2018

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Yemen’s warring parties agree to ceasefire in Al-Hudaydah. Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Houthi-led rebel movement reached an agreement on Hodaydah port and city, which will see a “mutual re-deployment of forces” from the port and the city, and the establishment of a Governorate-wide ceasefire, following a week of UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden. If implemented on the ground, the deal will allow for the movement of vital aid and goods from Al-Hudaydah Port to the rest of the country. “The agreements today mean a lot,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who also paid a personal tribute to Yemen’s generosity as a refugee-hosting country, as the talks ended on Thursday. “This can be a starting point for peace and for ending the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.” A framework for political negotiations will be discussed at the next round of talks in late January.

Civilian deaths and displacement continue in Syria, says UN relief chief. UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council on Thursday that while the overall intensity of violence in Syria has decreased, civilians continue to be killed by air and ground strikes. Recent shelling and fighting in and around the demilitarized zone in north-west Syria have forced nearly 15,000 people to flee their homes for neighbouring villages where many people are now living in the open without adequate shelter. “Idlib remains on the edge of humanitarian disaster,” said Lowcock, who also expressed concern about the situation of 40,000 displaced people living in harsh conditions in Rukban camp near Syria’s border with Jordan with limited access to food and medical care. In a statement on Thursday, UNICEF said two babies had died in Rukban in the past week. The camp received its first delivery of aid since January last month, but basic supplies are dwindling and no firm agreement has been reached on future aid deliveries.


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR

More than a million Congolese left homeless by fighting in 2018. UNHCR estimates that 1.5 million people have had their homes damaged or destroyed by fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Findings from a recent UNHCR-led survey found that 88,000 houses in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, which have seen a surge in violence in recent months, have been destroyed or damaged. Some of those forced to flee report entire villages have been reduced to ash. UNHCR warned of “massive shelter needs” for those now living in informal settlements in huts made of branches and plastic bags, with little protection from the elements or intruders.

EU leaders to discuss asylum reform at Brussels summit. This morning, EU leaders were due to discuss a package of seven measures to reform the Common European Asylum System. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani on Thursday appealed to European leaders to back the measures, five which have so far been agreed. The Dublin regulation, which determines which Member State is responsible for dealing with an asylum application, remains a sticking point. Tajani emphasized the need to pass the whole package, opposing moves to leave aside those elements still lacking agreement. AP reports that a draft summit statement attributes a fall in border crossings this year to the EU’s external migration policy and control of its external borders. The statement reportedly calls for the policy to be “continued, further developed and fully implemented”.

Rise in medical costs puts Syrian refugees’ health at risk in Jordan. The New York Times spoke to Zina Satouf, a widowed Syrian refugee who is struggling to afford the prescribed eye drops she needs to save her sight from glaucoma. Satouf’s three daughters are also losing their sight to glaucoma and one of her five sons is disabled. Earlier this year the Jordanian government introduced rules that significantly increased the cost of public health services for refugees. UNHCR and NGOs are trying to fill the gap with additional health care funding for refugees, but Satouf’s eye drops must be bought with the monthly stipend she receives from UNHCR to cover all her basic needs. Last week, UNHCR reported that refugees were minimizing their visits to health facilities because of the increased costs.


GET INSPIRED

The model Helena Christensen, a long-time supporter of UNHCR, recently visited Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda. There she met a group of young Burundian refugees and aspiring models who collectively set up their own modelling agency – Top Fashion Models (TFM) – in an effort to break into the fashion industry. “TFM are smashing the stereotype,” writes Christensen in a piece about her visit for Vogue magazine. “They’re walking the walk and leading the charge on the re-brand of ‘refugee’.”


DID YOU KNOW?

Some 316,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed by conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, affecting 1.5 million people.

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