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The Refugee Brief – 13 December 2019

By Kristy Siegfried | 13 December, 2019

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Flooding and famine threat raise stakes for South Sudan peace process. The World Food Programme warned on Thursday that catastrophic flooding in recent months coming on the heels of a drought and ongoing political uncertainty could push South Sudan into a famine without a large-scale humanitarian response. Aid groups have been warning that fragile gains made since a September 2018 ceasefire deal risk being reversed by an expected sharp increase in food security after torrential rains destroyed thousands of acres of cropland and grazing pasture. As discussions on the implementation of the peace agreement signed last year resumed in Juba this week, UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi called on all parties to boost efforts to form an inclusive national unity government. “South Sudanese people long for lasting peace,” he said in a statement today. “Only a political solution can end the crisis and bring relief to those who have been displaced over and over again.”

Afghan refugees and countries hosting them need more support, says UNHCR. Ahead of next week’s Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, the UN refugee agency today appealed for more international support for some 4.6 million displaced Afghans and the countries hosting some 2.7 million of them registered as refugees. The overwhelming majority of Afghan refugees remain in the Islamic Republics of Pakistan and Iran, but Afghans are also currently the single largest group of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe, due to worsening security in Afghanistan and increasing financial pressure on the two main host nations. In Iran, an economic downtown has caused hardships for Afghans and Iranians, including soaring health-care costs. In both Pakistan and Iran, Afghan refugees have access to education and national health-care systems, but UNHCR warned that sustaining such assistance “cannot be managed alone and will require greater efforts by the international community”.


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR

France to take 400 asylum-seekers from Greece. France will take 400 asylum-seekers from Greece over the coming months to help the country manage arrivals from Turkey, French Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave said on Thursday. The relocations would mark the first significant transfers of asylum-seekers from Greece since a two-year European Union scheme ended in September 2017 after moving 22,000 asylum-seekers from Greece to other Member States, far short of an initial target of 66,400. Maisonnave also offered to send French interpreters, doctors and psychologists to the Greek islands where more than 40,000 refugees and migrants are now staying, according to the latest figures, including 908 who arrived between last Friday and late Wednesday.

Salvadoran asylum-seeker killed in Mexico while awaiting US court hearing. A Salvadoran man seeking asylum in the United States was kidnapped and murdered in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, where he was sent to await his asylum court hearing. The LA Times reports that over a seven-month period, the man and his wife and two children repeatedly told US immigration officials that they felt unsafe in Tijuana. Since January, 54,000 asylum-seekers have been sent to wait in Mexico for US immigration court hearings. A report released last week by Human Rights First found at least 636 publicly reported cases of kidnapping, rape, torture and other violent assaults against asylum-seekers sent to Mexico by the US.

Uprooted survivors of Marawi siege long to return home. Two years after their city on the Philippine island of Mindanao was liberated from Islamic State militants, tens of thousands of people driven from their homes in Marawi are still in limbo, reports The Guardian. The worst-affected areas of the city remain in ruins, and attempts to help displaced families have been hampered by strained breakdown in relations between the EU – a major aid donor – and the government of President Rodrigo Duterte. A recent UN assessment of camps for the displaced found a worsening sanitation situation and an urgent need for more drinkable water. Nearly 2,000 people are still living in tents, many of which are now ripped and leaking.

Refugees and asylum-seekers say they will leave Cape Town church by weekend. Several hundred refugees and asylum-seekers who have been staying at a central Cape Town church since the end of October have reportedly promised to leave by the weekend. They have been staying at the church since they were removed by the police from outside UNHCR’s offices. Earlier this week, city authorities approached the high court for an order to have the refugees removed. The city’s fire and safety inspectors warned that the crowded church is a health risk. The group has been demanding, among other things, that they be resettled to another country because they no longer feel safe in South Africa. An attempt by some among the group to reach Namibia failed this week when 66 people were turned back at the border because they lacked documents.


GET INSPIRED

The Solidarity Train – a moving exhibition about refugees – is making its way through France, stopping in five cities along the way, before arriving in Geneva on Monday in time for the Global Refugee Forum. At each stop, people can board the train and view the exhibition and also meet refugees. “The idea of the train is to create encounters,” explains UNHCR spokesperson Céline Schmitt.


DID YOU KNOW?

Afghans began fleeing violence in their country 40 years ago and are now entering their fifth decade in exile. They have been displaced for longer than any other group of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate.

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