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By Kristy Siegfried | 1 October, 2021

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

Haitians returned from US and Mexico. CNN reports that the last remaining Haitian migrants and asylum-seekers who had crossed the US southern border in recent weeks and congregated under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas have either left or been removed. Some 4,600 had been repatriated to Haiti on flights from Texas by Wednesday, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Meanwhile, several areas in Mexico, Panama and Colombia continued to see large inflows of Haitians. Many have moved on from South American nations due to dwindling opportunities. Others are fleeing a confluence of humanitarian and political catastrophes in Haiti which are expected to worsen in the wake of a major earthquake in August. In Mexico, authorities in the southern city of Tapachula opened a large reception centre outside a soccer stadium to help deal with a backlog of asylum applications, many of them from Haitians. Mexico also began flying Haitians back to their country on Wednesday, starting with a flight carrying 70 people from the state of Tabasco. Immigration authorities said the returns were voluntary. In a joint statement on Thursday, four UN agencies, including UNHCR, called on states to refrain from expelling Haitians without properly assessing their individual grounds for asylum. The agencies also called for a regional approach to ensure the safety of Haitians on the move, and for more access to other legal migration pathways.

Syrian refugees struggling to survive in crisis-hit Lebanon. A severe economic crisis in Lebanon has sent prices and unemployment soaring, significantly worsening living conditions for Syrian refugees and Lebanese. Nine out of 10 Syrian refugees are living in extreme poverty, according to the preliminary findings of an assessment carried out by UNHCR, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The yearly report on conditions of Syrians living in Lebanon found that the cost of an essential food basket has increased seven-fold since late 2019, when the country’s financial crisis began to unfold. To survive, Syrian refugees are resorting to pulling their children out of school, reducing meals and working longer hours in worse conditions to earn the same income they did last year. The UN agencies said Syrian refugee children were bearing the brunt of the crisis, with primary school attendance dropping by 25 per cent in 2021 and child labour and child marriage on the increase. Urging stronger support for Lebanese and refugees, UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon, Ayaki Ito, said: “We cannot fail them now.”

As needs in Afghanistan rapidly grow, aid groups plead for help. The health-care system in Afghanistan is on the brink of collapse, international aid groups warned this week, threatening to deepen the country’s humanitarian crisis just as harsh winter weather looms. The World Health Organization said health-care provision was deteriorating fast, with cases of measles and diarrhoea shooting up, a decline in the country’s COVID-19 response and almost half the country’s children at risk of malnutrition. Afghan doctors have not been paid in two months. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned on Thursday that acute shortages of food fuelled by drought, lack of cash, the COVID-19 pandemic and displacement have left millions of Afghans facing hunger and destitution if aid and money do not flow into the country within weeks.


STORIES TO WATCH

Rohingya community leader shot dead in Bangladesh camp. Unidentified gunmen shot and killed a prominent Rohingya refugee leader in a camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar District on Wednesday. UNHCR condemned the attack and urged Bangladeshi authorities to undertake an immediate investigation. The agency said it had enhanced its staff presence in the camps and was in contact with law enforcement and government agencies in charge of maintaining the safety and security of the refugees. Mohib Ullah, 48, was a high-profile advocate for the Rohingya. His group, the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, documented human rights violations suffered by the Rohingya in the home state of Rakhine, in Myanmar.

Aid agencies warn of surge in COVID-19 cases across north-west Syria. A 20-day-old baby and a 17-year-old pregnant girl were among the latest victims of the virus in northern Syria, according to Save the Children. Intensive care beds across Syria have filled up with patients suffering from the COVID-19 virus, reports Reuters. In the opposition-held north-west of the country, where years of conflict have left much of the health system in ruins and more than half the population are displaced, there are only 124 intensive care beds for 4 million people and it often takes a death to free up a bed. More than 1,000 cases of COVID are being recorded a day in the north-west, but a shortage of testing kits means the real figure is likely much higher, Mark Cutts, the UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, told Reuters. Vaccination campaigns have made slow progress. In the north-west, just 2.5 per cent of the population have received one shot of vaccine.

Battle for Yemen’s Marib threatens hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Fighting between pro-government forces and Houthi militias drew closer to the key northern city of Marib this week, reports AFP. The escalation in violence has raised fears for the one million internally displaced people who have sought refuge in urban centres and some 150 informal settlements in Marib after fleeing conflict in other parts of the country. The National reports that hundreds of families attempting to flee clashes in southern Marib became trapped while trying to reach new sites for the displaced in Marib city. The families reportedly lack food, water and shelter, and humanitarian teams are unable to reach them.


GET INSPIRED

Every year, the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award recognizes a person or group that has gone to extraordinary lengths to help forcibly displaced or stateless people. This year’s winner is the Jeel Albena Association for Humanitarian Development, a Yemeni organization that has provided a lifeline to tens of thousands of people displaced by the country’s conflict. Its founder, Ameen Jubran, has himself had to flee fighting several times.


DID YOU KNOW?

In Lebanon, 30 per cent of Syrian refugee children between the ages of 6 and 17 have never been to school.