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By Kristy Siegfried | 1 October, 2019


UNHCR calls on Greece to end dangerous overcrowding in island reception centres. With sea arrivals to the Greek Aegean islands reaching more than 10,000 so far in September – their highest level since 2016 – the UN Refugee Agency today called on the Greek government to urgently move thousands of asylum-seekers out of dangerously congested reception centres. “Keeping people on the islands in these inadequate and insecure conditions is inhumane and must come to an end,” said UNHCR spokesperson Liz Throssell. After a fire killed one woman at Moria reception centre on Lesvos on Sunday night, sparking clashes between asylum-seekers and police, the Greek government announced a series of measures on Monday to improve the situation on the islands. The plans include moving more asylum-seekers to camps on the mainland, increasing returns to Turkey and overhauling the asylum process to speed up the time needed for a final decision. UNHCR had not yet seen written details of the plans, Throssell said, but was looking forward to providing comments. Meanwhile, new accommodation places were needed to prevent pressure from the islands spilling over to the mainland.

Fewer refugee movements in South-East Asia, but journeys more dangerous. Movements of refugees in South-East Asia dropped sharply between January 2018 and June 2019, according to a report released by UNHCR today, but the threats faced by those fleeing violence and persecution were higher. Rohingya remained the largest refugee group on the move in the region, with nearly 18,000 new arrivals to Bangladesh during the reporting period and another 1,597 making dangerous sea journeys across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. At least 15 of them drowned or went missing, while many others reported being abused by smugglers and fearing for their lives. Across the rest of the region, smaller numbers of refugees moved from their initial country of asylum to another country. Physical threats, fears of deportation, inability to meet basic needs and tensions with host communities were some of the most common reasons given by refugees for moving.


Tanzania to begin planned repatriations of Burundian refugees. Reuters reports that Burundi has agreed to a first group of 1,000 refugees returning home from Tanzania on Thursday as part of an agreement between the two countries to repatriate 200,000 Burundian refugees from Tanzania. The Burundian official told Reuters the process would be voluntary. UNHCR, which was not part of the agreement, has said that conditions in Burundi are not conducive for mass returns. Speaking to Reuters, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said refugees must “make a decision for themselves if the situation is right for them to return or not”. He added thatpeople continue to leave Burundi because of problems they face there.

Climate change in Viet Nam forcing thousands to abandon homes. The BBC series “The Displaced” reports from the low-lying Mekong Delta in Viet Nam, where climate change is rapidly eroding coastal land and impacting farming. Some 1.3 million people have left the Delta region in the last decade and 15 per cent cite climate change as the main reason. Researchers say the real figure could be much higher and is likely to grow. Many of the displaced are moving to big cities like Ho Chi Minh and Can Tho, but others are reluctant to abandon their homes and farms. The government has created relocation programmes for some families in vulnerable areas and put dykes in place to limit the effects of flooding, but youth groups are pushing for more action.

Ecuadorian woman offers shelter to weary Venezuelans. Al Jazeera reports from the northern Ecuadorian town of Juncal, about 80 kilometres from Ecuador’s main border crossing with Colombia, where one woman has opened up her home to Venezuelans making long treks south, often on foot. Carmen Cercelén estimates that, since August 2017, she has given shelter to over 8,500 Venezuelans. The number of people passing through her house spiked to some 300 a day in August, ahead of the implementation of new visa requirements for Venezuelans entering Ecuador. Numbers have now dropped and most Venezuelans entering Ecuador are reportedly doing so via irregular routes since they lack the money or documents to apply for a visa.

As a generation of Syrian refugees comes of age, what future awaits? The Christian Science Monitor reports on the limited opportunities for Syrian refugees wanting to pursue their dreams of higher education. While billions of dollars have been spent on helping many of them attend primary and secondary schools in host countries, many Syrian students are now finishing their schooling and face an uncertain future. A small number of scholarships, online and blended learning options are available, but currently only 5 per cent of Syrians have access to higher education. Funding is the main obstacle, particularly in countries such as Jordan where refugees must pay international student tuition fees.


Abdusamat Saparov and his family became stateless overnight in 1995, when a new law made his passport from Uzbekistan invalid in Krgyzstan, the country he had moved to after marrying a Kyrgyz woman. Without citizenship, he had to put his beekeeping dream on hold for over 20 years. After finally becoming a citizen in April this year, he applied for a beekeeping license and is now the proud owner of 38 thriving beehives.


Some 45,600 asylum-seekers have entered Greece so far this year, mostly by sea, accounting for more than half of the 77,400 refugees and migrants who have crossed into Europe so far this year.