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By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   |  11 June, 2018


Spain offers safe harbour to rescue ship stuck at sea. The Aquarius, a ship run by Médecins Sans Frontières and SOS Méditerraneé, rescued 229 people from two rubber boats on Saturday night. Another 400 were transferred to the ship after being rescued by the Italian navy. But as the Aquarius headed north on Sunday, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wrote on his Facebook page that Italy was shutting its ports and saying “no” to human trafficking and no to “the business of illegal immigration”. Italy reportedly asked Malta to disembark the migrants, but in a statement, Malta said it was “neither the competent nor the coordinating authority”. UNHCR appealed to European governments to immediately allow the Aquarius’s passengers to disembark. “There is an urgent humanitarian imperative here,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean, in a statement. “People are running out of provisions and need help quickly.” He added that broader issues about responsibility-sharing could be addressed later. As the Aquarius remained stranded at sea on Monday, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the ship could dock at Valencia.

Secretary-General calls for investigation into attacks in Syria’s Idlib. The village of Zardana in northern rural Idlib was reportedly targeted by airstrikes on Thursday night as people were breaking their Ramadan fast. Amnesty International said at least 44 people were killed, including six children. A second airstrike came as rescue workers were responding to the first attack. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a full investigation into the attacks, “especially allegations that there was a second strike targeting first responders”. Guterres underscored the “precarious plight” of the estimated 2.3 million people in Idlib, 60 per cent of whom have been displaced by the conflict from other areas. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations reported that more airstrikes on Sunday had killed at least 10 people and put the al-Nour Women and Children’s hospital out of service.


First monsoon rains hit Rohingya settlements. AFP reports that heavy rains triggered floods and landslides over the weekend. A three-year-old boy became the first casualty of the monsoon when he was crushed in his sleep by a collapsed mud wall early on Monday morning. UNHCR spokesperson Caroline Gluck tweeted that some houses had been inundated with water and that many families had to be moved due to multiple landslides. She told AFP that so far nearly 29,000 people had been relocated to safer areas out of an estimated 200,000 people at high risk from landslides and flooding. Community leaders told AFP that dirt roads had been turned into quagmires. More heavy rain is forecast in the coming days.

Germany to toughen rules on asylum. Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag yesterday that “Germany’s asylum policy needs to be completely overhauled ”. Public trust in the asylum system has been damaged recently by several high-profile violent crimes linked to the country’s refugee population as well as allegations of misconduct within BAMF, the federal office for migration and refugees. The latest case concerns the rape and murder last month of a 14-year-old girl from Mainz. The principal suspect is an Iraqi man whose asylum request was denied in 2016 but who remained in Germany pending a judicial review of his case. Details of Seehofer’s proposals will be presented on Tuesday, but the Financial Times reports that he has made clear his determination to speed up asylum procedures and make it easier to deported failed asylum seekers.

Kenya hosts first ever TEDx event at refugee camp. The influential conference network held an event at Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya on Saturday that brought together current and former refugees, as well as activists and aid workers, to share their experiences of resilience and creativity . Among the speakers was Mary Nyiriak Maker, a former refugee from South Sudan who now teaches at Kakuma camp, and Somali supermodel Halima Aden, who grew up in the camp. Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom reported from Kakuma that “Everybody here says that they believe an event like this is extremely important, not just because it counteracts negative stereotypes about refugees but also it will inspire so many refugees around the world”.


Sudanese-American slam poet Emi Mahmour just became a national Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR. She has been helping to advocate and raise awareness about refugees through her poetry and performances since 2016. Here she performs her poem, ‘Head over Heels’, marking the millionth South Sudanese refugee to reach Uganda on 17 August last year.


Aid agencies and refugees have built 60 kilometres of drainage canals, 43 kilometres of retaining walls, 35 kilometres of steps, 28 kilometres of bricked roads and 703 metres of bridges to reduce the risk of flooding and landslides at Rohingya refugee settlements in Bangladesh.