By Kristy Siegfried | 10 December, 2021
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
At least 53 migrants killed in southern Mexico road accident. The overturning of a truck crammed with over 100 migrants in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas on Thursday left at least 53 people dead and another 58 injured. Civil protection officials said the driver had been speeding when he lost control of the vehicle on the highway connecting the city of Chiapa de Corzo with the state capital Tuxtla Gutierrez. Prior to the crash, Mexican officials had stepped up transfers of mostly Central American migrants from southern Mexico to other regions of the country, but thousands remain in the city of Tapachula, close to the Guatemalan border, some living in makeshift shelters and overcrowded accommodation while they wait for their asylum cases to be processed. AP reports that Mexico’s refugee agency, COMAR, has been dealing with an unprecedented number of requests for humanitarian visas that have delayed the processing of asylum claims. According to COMAR, a record 123,000 asylum requests have been filed so far in 2021. UNHCR has called for alternatives to the asylum process to be made available to those people who do not qualify for refugee status but still need support. In the absence of such alternatives, said the agency, “people can often decide to take risks which can have fatal consequences”.
30,000 flee fighting between herders and farmers in northern Cameroon. A resurgence of tit-for-tat violence between herders, fishermen and farmers over scarce water resources has killed at least 22 people in Cameroon’s Far North region since Sunday and forced more than 30,000 people to flee into neighbouring Chad. Thousands of others have been displaced inside Cameroon. A traditional leader told Reuters the violence began when a herder wanted to bring his cattle to the banks of a river but was prevented by farmers and fishermen. Fighting later erupted in the city of Kousseri where the cattle market was destroyed and 10,000 people fled to Chad’s capital city N’djamena after crossing the Chari and Logone Rivers which mark the border. UNHCR said the climate crisis is worsening tensions in the region as water resources dwindle. A first outbreak of intercommunal violence occurred in August, displacing 23,000 people, 8,500 of whom have remained in Chad. UNHCR and authorities were leading reconciliation efforts in Kousseri this week when the violence broke out.
EU countries agree to take in 40,000 Afghans. A group of 15 European Union Member States have agreed to take in 40,000 Afghans, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said after a meeting of interior ministers on Thursday. Some will arrive on evacuation or humanitarian admission programmes while some will be resettled as refugees. Germany will accept over half of the Afghans, with the Netherlands, Spain, France and other countries taking smaller numbers, according to media reports. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi had previously urged the bloc to resettle 42,500 Afghans over five years, half of the 85,000 Afghan refugees UNHCR considers the most vulnerable. The agency has warned that an increasingly dire humanitarian situation inside Afghanistan may compel thousands more to flee the country. During the aftermath of the US military withdrawal and the return of the Taliban in August, EU States took in 28,000 evacuated Afghans. The United States is in the process of resettling another 60,000 evacuees and Canada has committed to welcoming 40,000 Afghans, while the UK has said it will resettle 20,000 over the coming years.
STORIES TO WATCH
Clashes displace thousands in Sudan’s Darfur. Nearly 10,000 people have fled a wave of intercommunal violence in the Jebel Moon area of Sudan’s West Darfur State, according to UNHCR which said over 2,000 of them had sought refuge in neighbouring Chad. AFP reports that the outbreak of violence, which began on 17 November, has killed around 100 people, including nearly 50 over the weekend in the Krink area, about 80 kilometres from the state capital, El Geneina. UNHCR said tensions remained high with its teams receiving reports from other parts of Darfur about the destruction of villages, sexual violence, and livestock rustling. The violence has also disrupted the farming season, raising further concerns about food security and a worsening humanitarian situation. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said about 6.2 million people across Darfur – about half the population – would need humanitarian assistance next year.
UK government’s immigration bill clears House of Commons. The Nationality and Borders Bill, which includes measures allowing UK border officials to turn back migrants at sea and to send asylum seekers to a third country while their claims are considered, was approved by the House of Commons on Wednesday. The Independent reports that more than 80 pages of amendments had been tabled, many of them by MPs concerned about the bill’s impact in its current form, but that all were voted down. Channel 4 reports on the far-reaching implications of the bill, particularly for asylum-seekers attempting to reach the UK via the Channel. If the bill becomes law, reaching the country in this way, rather than via so-called legal routes, will have an adverse effect on asylum claims. UNHCR’s representative in the UK, Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, said it would prevent people from acquiring a status, even those found to be in need of international protection. The bill will now go to the House of Lords.
UN refugee chief warns of world’s failure to address causes of displacement. Addressing the UN Security Council on Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the international community’s “failure and inaction” in responding to instability and insecurity had compelled humanitarian organizations to work in increasingly uncertain, and often highly politicized situations. He warned that humanitarians cannot replicate the role of States in finding political solutions and fixing economies in countries like Afghanistan, Yemen and Myanmar. Grandi also underlined the extent that the climate emergency has combined with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and conflict to increase forced displacement in the Sahel and elsewhere. UNHCR is appealing for nearly US$9 billion to cover its operations in 136 countries and territories in 2022.
Ahmedou El-Bokhary leads a group of Malian refugees and local Mauritanians who battle bushfires in the area surrounding Mbera refugee camp, near Mauritania’s border with Mali. As the climate in Mauritania has become hotter, bushfires have become more frequent, threatening the pastureland the refugees and locals depend on to sustain their livestock. “We do it of our own free will,” says El-Bokhary, “because for us, someone who protects animals, protects their loved ones, and at the same time creates good relations between refugees and locals. We are proud of that.”
DID YOU KNOW?
There are now more than 6 million Venezuelans displaced outside their country, second only to the 6.7 million Syrians living in exile.