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By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   | 10 January, 2019


Rescued refugees and migrants finally brought to shore. A group of 49 refugees and migrants were finally allowed to disembark in Malta on Wednesday afternoon. Many of them had been stranded at sea for 19 days after being refused entry to any European port. The ad-hoc agreement to share those aboard the Sea Watch 3 and the Sea Eye between nine European countries brought an end to their maritime ordeal, but did little to resolve the question of how Europe will handle future groups of rescued refugees and migrants. In a statement, UNHCR expressed concern that the search for a solution had taken so long and that attempts to forge a collective and predictable system for disembarking people rescued on the Mediterranean had made little progress, despite proposals put forward jointly by UNHCR and IOM. “The imperative to save lives comes above politics and cannot be a responsibility that’s negotiated on a case-by-case basis,” said UNHCR Chief Filippo Grandi.

Humanitarian situation in Yemen “remains catastrophic” despite Stockholm deal. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council yesterday that while civilians in Al-Hudaydah were “a little more confidant” to go about their lives, the wider humanitarian situation in Yemen “remains catastrophic” following the agreement between warring parties struck in Stockholm last month. More than 24 million people now need humanitarian assistance, including 10 million who are “just a step away” from famine, said Lowcock, adding that only half of health facilities are functioning and “needs are intensifying across all sectors”. He called for improved humanitarian access, including to several warehouses and the Red Sea Mills in Al-Hudaydah, where enough grain to feed 3.5 million people has been sitting unused for nearly four months. UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, who also briefed the Security Council on Wednesday, said that fighting in Al-Hudaydah was now “very limited”, but that “very sensitive and challenging days” lay ahead.


Devastating storm piles misery on Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Makeshift shelters belonging to thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been battered by high winds, lashing rain and snow in recent days. UNHCR estimates that 151 informal camps hosting 11,000 people have been severely affected by storm “Norma”. One settlement in the border town of Arsal has been buried in snow and an eight-year-old Syrian girl was found dead after being swept away by storm waters in the northern town of Minyeh. The Independent reports that aid agencies are scrambling to help refugees affected by the bad weather who are living in hundreds of small settlements across the country. This year marks the eighth year many have spent living in shelters in the bitter cold.

Venezuela’s exodus: a new goldmine for organized crime. InSight Crime reports on how criminal networks are spreading rapidly through the region by preying on the flow of Venezuelans leaving their country. Dozens of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour networks targeting Venezuelans fleeing poverty and hunger were dismantled in several countries in the region last year. Criminal and armed groups in Colombia are also reportedly recruiting Venezuelans. The Colombian border city of Cúcuta, with its prolific informal economy, is often the first stop in what is fasting become “a major corridor of migration-based organized crime”, according to InSight Crime. Analysts predict that the economic and political chaos driving the exodus from Venezuela will continue in 2019 as President Nicolàs Maduro is sworn in for a second six-year term today.

Upsurge in violence in north-east Nigeria triggering massive displacement. A 26 December attack by Islamist militants on the town of Baga in northeastern Nigeria and another attack two days later on nearby Monguno have triggered “massive displacement ”, said the UN on Wednesday. More than 30,000 of the displaced have converged on already congested camps in the state capital, Maiduguri. The UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said the recent fighting had created “a humanitarian tragedy”. The fighting has forced some 260 aid workers to pull out of areas affected by the conflict since November, affecting the delivery of aid to hundreds of thousands of people.

Americans join private refugee sponsorship efforts in Canada. With no private refugee resettlement programmes in the United States, the Christian Science Monitor reports that some Americans wanting to show their support for refugees are channelling resources to partners north of the border. Connecting with Americans has allowed Canadian sponsorship groups to bring more refugee families to Canada. Separately, new research from the University of Alberta suggests that Syrian refugees have had a range of experiences being privately sponsored in Canada. While those sponsored by well-resourced groups such as church groups received extensive support, others weren’t adequately supported by groups that lacked the means or the time.


If you’re looking for some inspiration to do more walking, running or cycling in 2019, read this blog by my colleague Tim Gaynor. He and his wife, Renata, turned a vacation walking the 128-mile Camino de Santiago across France into something more meaningful by signing up to UNHCR’s One Billion Miles to Safety campaign – a global movement that honours the resilience and determination of refugees who travel large distances to reach safety.


In 2018, one life was lost for every 50 people who attempted to reach Europe via the Mediterranean.