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By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   |  31 January, 2018


Taliban active in 70 per cent of Afghanistan. The BBC carried out months of research across the country between August and November last year to assess the security situation in every Afghan district. It found that about 15 million people – half the population – are living in areas either controlled by the Taliban or where the Taliban mount regular attacks. Even areas without an open Taliban presence experience major attacks. In January alone, three attacks in Kabul have left 130 people dead. The BBC’s findings come as 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees in neighbouring Pakistan are due to lose their legal right to remain there on Wednesday. Pakistan has extended the validity of Afghan refugees’ ‘proof of registration’ cards several times in the past, but the last extension was only for a month. A report released by Oxfam on Wednesday finds that sending Afghans back to volatile areas “will likely result in more displacement and fragility”.

Aid deliveries blocked for millions of Syrians. Addressing the UN Security Council on Tuesday, deputy relief chief Ursula Mueller said the UN and its partners faced serious challenges in accessing 13.1 million Syrians in need of aid. No convoys have reached besieged and hard-to-reach areas in the last month, while aid deliveries to previously accessible areas in the country’s north-east had come to a halt. Mueller also expressed concern for civilians in north-west Syria, where airstrikes and fighting in southern Idlib and northern Hama had displaced 270,000 people since mid-December, and where some 15,000 people are thought to have been displaced within Afrin district since Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch began on 20 January. Turkey is drawing up contingency plans to manage the displacement of civilians in Afrin, according to AFP. The country’s humanitarian agencies are reportedly scouting for sites to establish camps around Azaz and in Idlib to prepare for a “worst-case scenario”.


Restrictive family reunion policies hamper refugee integration in UK, study finds. New research by Oxfam and the Refugee Council finds that refugees living in the UK are often plagued by worry about loved ones who are still in danger overseas and are unable to focus on finding work, making friends or learning English. Current rules in the UK only allow adult refugees to be reunited with spouses and children under 18. A parliamentary debate in March will consider changing the rules.

Time to start thinking about long-term future of Rohingya. In this analysis for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Erol Yayboke argues that longer-term strategic planningis needed to deal with the complex development challenges posed by the arrival of more than 650,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. He suggests that the focus on repatriation plans has been driven by domestic politics and that aid groups and the Bangladeshi government should instead be preparing for the threat posed by the coming monsoon season.

The precarious life of Afghan refugees in Istanbul. In this long-read for the Los Angeles Review of Books, the authors paint a picture of life in Istanbul’s Zeytinburnu district , the heart of the city’s Afghan community. The Turkish government does not recognize Afghans as refugees, and those who apply for asylum with UNHCR are required to live in designated cities while they await resettlement. Most choose to remain undocumented in major cities, like Istanbul, where they can find work but forgo access to education and health care and run the constant risk of arrest and deportation.

Refugees ready to pay for clean and renewable energy. Researchers from the Moving Energy Initiative found a huge demand in refugee camps around the world for renewable electrical supplies and cleaner cooking solutions. Although many would be willing to buy low-carbon stoves and lights, most can’t afford to do so and remain dependant on expensive fuels that can cause health and environmental problems. The researchers argue that by working with the private sector, cost-effective solutions could be found for refugees and their host communities.


In this music video called “Dangerous Crossings”, six artists from Egypt, Somalia and Ethiopia sing in five different languages to raise awareness about the dangers of boarding boats bound for war-torn Yemen. The song and video were made in partnership with UNHCR as part of a campaign launched last February, but its message is still timely. Just last week, at least 30 Ethiopians and Somalis drowned in the Gulf of Aden.


More than 8,500 Afghan civilians were killed or injured in the first three quarters of 2017.