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By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   |  24 April, 2018

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Brussels conference aims to close funding gap for Syrians. A two-day UN and EU conference aimed at securing new pledges of humanitarian funding for Syrians gets underway in Brussels today with a focus on dialogue with NGOs from Syria and the region. More than 200 NGOs are set to participate and provide recommendations that will feed into tomorrow’s ministerial-level meetings. Ahead of the conference, UNHCR issued a warning that its cash-assistance programme for 200,000 vulnerable refugee families in the region will come to stop in May unless additional resources are found to plug a US$270 million funding shortfall – part of a wider US$4.1 billion funding gap in the UN-led response plan for Syrian refugees in 2018. Last year’s Brussels conference generated pledges of $6 billion. Officials told Reuters that they hope to surpass that figureat this year’s conference, which is also being seen as an opportunity to revive efforts to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.

Asylum-seekers clash with far-right on Lesvos. At least 20 people were hospitalized after a group of Afghan asylum-seekers who had been holding a sit-in demonstration in the main square of Mytilene, capital of the Greek island of Lesvos, were attacked, reportedly by local members of a far-right group . The asylum-seekers had been protesting squalid living conditions and overcrowding at the island’s Moria camp, and calling for their asylum claims to be processed on the mainland, since last Tuesday. Skirmishes between the two groups reportedly lasted throughout Sunday night until riot police dispersed the crowd early Monday morning and transported the asylum-seekers back to Moria. In a related development, the new head of the Greek Asylum Service, Markos Karavias, has reportedly signed an agreement that maintains the restriction on refugees and migrants arriving to the Greek islands from travelling on to the mainland. A court ruling last week had overturned a previous restriction on movement.


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR

Desperation mounts in Yarmouk, and among those who fled. Since the start of the offensive on the Damascus suburb, which once housed a camp for 160,000 Palestinian refugees, 5,000 of the estimated 6,000 Palestinians still living there have fled to the nearby village of Yalda. While they are no longer under fire, they are in dire need , according to this report by IRIN. Most of those left in Yarmouk are reportedly elderly and in need of medical care. Air strikes have been pummelling the area since last Thursday and as pro-government forces advance on the remaining ISIS-controlled areas, there are concerns that those displaced to Yalda may be caught up in the fighting.

Trinidad and Tobago deports Venezuelan asylum-seekers. A statement by UNHCR on Monday expressed concern about the deportation of 82 Venezuelan nationals from the Caribbean country on Saturday. UNHCR said it had not been given access to the group, which included registered asylum-seekers, while they were held in detention prior to deportation. The Trinidad and Tobago government responded that the Venezuelans had been detained for various offenses and that the returns had been voluntary. But UNHCR noted that established procedures had not been followed, including a provision that asylum-seekers who decide to return home must first receive counselling from UNHCR and submit a written statement that the decision was voluntary.

Libyans risk lives to escape their country’s chaos. Francesca Mannocchi reports on the Libyans desperate to flee their country, but with no legal means to do so who are risking their lives on smugglers’ boats. Some are seeking medical treatment in Europe, others want to escape a country they no longer recognize as their own.

Germany to take in 10,000 refugees through resettlement programme. German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the announcement on Monday following a meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. Merkel said she supported resettlement as a way “to prevent illegal migration and substitute it through legal opportunities”. Grandi thanked Germany for tripling its financial support to UNHCR in the last three years, making Germany the agency’s second-biggest donor after the United States.


GET INSPIRED

More than 60,000 Nigerian refugees live at Menawoa camp in Cameroon. Just four years ago, the camp was surrounded by trees, but now women and children must walk up to 12 kilometres every day to find firewood. This short film, launched to coincide with Earth Day on Friday, documents a project to reforest the land in and around the camp with 40,000 trees. The initiative aims to restore the degraded land and provide a new model for how to reduce the environmental impacts of refugee camps.


DID YOU KNOW?

In 2017, the Syrian refugee response received only half of required funding.