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By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   |  25 January, 2018

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Bulgaria aims to bridge east-west divide on EU asylum policy. Bulgaria, the current holder of the six-month rotating EU presidency, is hosting a two-day meeting of EU interior ministers that will attempt to reach agreement on reforms to the Common European Asylum System. EU leaders have set a June deadline for an overhaul of the so-called Dublin Regulation and for the creation of a permanent mechanism for all member states to admit refugees in the event of an emergency. Eastern states argue that they can meet their obligations by contributing funds to Greece and Italy rather than taking in refugees.

Briefing the media ahead of the meeting, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Türk, reminded participants that “the vast majority of refugees…do not come to Europe”. He described the aim of the global compact on refugees, currently in development, as to come up with a system to ensure more equitable sharing of responsibility for refugees and added that the same values of burden-sharing should influence discussions about asylum policy within the EU.

How should UNHCR get “the best possible deal for refugees”? In this wide-ranging interview with Lara Setrakian, co-founder of News Deeply, UNHCR head Filippo Grandi speaks about how the organization is dealing with multiple refugee crises and a challenging political climate. From leveraging public opinion to influence government policies, to making Europe’s reception systems more effective, and pushing for safe and voluntary returns for the Rohingya, he explains that the organization is focused on trying to get “the best possible deal for refugees”. Grandi also took questions from the public during this Facebook Live event at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR

Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands fast-track funding for Palestinians. UNRWA launched a global funding push on Monday in an effort to plug the gap left by the US aid cut and sustain its education, health and other programs assisting Palestinian refugees. Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands have all responded by fast-tracking funding already earmarked for the agency. The leaders of 21 aid organizations wrote to the US administration on Wednesday warning of “dire consequences” if Washington upholds a decision announced last week to withhold US$65 million in funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Italy’s homeless, jobless refugees. Ahead of national elections on 4 March, Reuters examines the plight of refugees struggling to build a life in Italy, where government housing and benefits are cut off once an asylum request is granted and there is little support for programs to promote integration. Years after landing in Italy, and even with legal status, large numbers of refugees and migrants remain unemployed and living in squats, their dreams of a better future fading.

Mastercard and USAID announce plans to turn refugee camps into digital communities. A public-private coalition, led by Mastercard and the US Agency for International Development, will launch pilot projects in Kenya and Uganda in the first half of 2018 to bring internet and mobile connectivity to refugee settlements and host communities. The coalition will also aim to deliver clean, efficient energy and digital financial tools.


GET INSPIRED

Wiener Tafel (‘Vienna Table’), Austria’s oldest food bank, collects fresh food that would otherwise be thrown away and delivers it to shelters and charities, including some that support asylum-seekers. Two of Wiener Tafel’s volunteer workers also happen to be asylum-seekers themselves. A former marketing manager from Baghdad, Rozh Ali says working at the food bank every day has improved his German and helped him feel part of a community. “Wiener Tafel is like family to me,” he says.


DID YOU KNOW?

Developing countries host 84 per cent of the world’s refugees, with Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon hosting the largest numbers in 2016.