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By Kristy Siegfried | 10 January, 2020


Syria cross-border aid under threat. A six-year-long UN operation that delivers aid across the Syrian border will expire at midnight unless the divided UN Security Council votes to extend it this afternoon. More than three million Syrians are dependent on aid trucked in from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, according to the UN. “To put it very simply, there is no alternative to reaching the people we need to reach in the northwest and northeast (of Syria) without the cross-border” operation, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Thursday. The Security Council’s five vote-wielding members have so far failed to reach a compromise on a resolution to extend authorization of cross-border aid deliveries. As humanitarian needs continue to intensify in north-west Idlib province, aid deliveries from Turkey are particularly crucial.

Fire at reception centre puts spotlight on Malta’s strained asylum system. A fire at a closed centre for asylum-seekers for Malta has drawn attention to the country’s strained asylum system and the re-introduction of a policy of detaining people, including children, while their asylum applications are processed. Around 450 people were evacuated from the centre in Marsa on Wednesday after a large fire broke out in one of the dormitories. The Times of Malta reports that tensions within Marsa and another centre in Safi have been on the rise in recent months as residents protest their detention. In a statement on Thursday, UNHCR said substandard conditions in the centres were contributing to feelings of frustration. “Detention of asylum-seekers in a manner that is not within strict legal basis needs to be addressed as a matter of priority,” said the refugee agency. Some 3,400 refugees and migrants arrived to Malta by sea last year. Just this morning, the NGO Sea-Watch International said its ship had rescued 42 people from a boat in distress in Malta’s sea-and-rescue zone.


Norway to take 600 refugees evacuated from Libya to Rwanda. Hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers evacuated from Libyan detention centres to a transit centre in Rwanda are to be resettled this year in Norway. Norwegian Justice Minister Joeran Kallmyr told Reuters the commitment to resettle 600 refugees from Rwanda was aimed at providing protection “in an organized manner” and discouraging “cynical people smugglers”. Under a deal signed with the UN and the African Union in September, Rwanda is currently hosting more than 300 refugees and asylum-seekers evacuated from Libya. As of December, UNHCR estimates that more than 4,000 people remain in Libyan detention centres, including about 2,500 refugees and asylum-seekers.

El Salvador passes law to protect and support people displaced by violence. El Salvador’s National Assembly on Thursday passed legislation that opens the door for tens of thousands of people internally displaced by organized crime and gang violence to gain access to aid, rights and justice. Once signed by President Nayib Bukele, the law will also provide for the establishment of a new national system for responding to and preventing internal displacement. UNHCR, which provided technical support for the drafting of the law, today welcomed the development as having the potentially to positively impact the lives of an estimated 71,500 Salvadorans forcibly displaced between 2006 and 2016. Honduras is considering similar legislation.

Lebanon’s financial crisis hits Syrian refugees. Months into Lebanon’s currency crisis, the country’s 1.5 million Syrian refugees are finding it increasingly hard to pay rent, buy food and access medical care, reports The New Humanitarian. Even before the current financial problems, around 73 per cent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon were living below the poverty line, according to a UN survey. Now, those with jobs are being paid their wages at the official exchange rate while prices have climbed, and landlords and creditors frequently demand payment in dollars or at the black-market rate. The cash assistance paid in local currency that just under half of refugee families in Lebanon receive has also lost value and some refugee families report struggling to withdraw it from cashpoints.

US border interceptions drop as Mexicans outnumber Central Americans. The number of people arrested or stopped entering the United States from Mexico fell for a seventh straight month in December, authorities said on Thursday. Mexicans accounted for half of 40,620 people who crossed the border irregularly or who presented themselves at official crossings, more than three times more than any other nationality and a major shift from much of last year, when Guatemala and Honduras were the primary countries of origin. AP reports that Mexican asylum-seekers waiting near the border in Tijuana come mainly from the states of Michoacan and Guerrero, where towns have been terrorized by drug-related violence for over a decade.


Weeks after arriving in Canada as a refugee, Tareq Hadad and his family sent home-made chocolates to people in the community to thank them for their hospitality. They were so impressed that they helped the family build a small shed next to their house where they could begin producing chocolates like those they once produced from the family’s factory in Damascus. Four years later, the company employs 55 people and ships products across the country. Now Hadad is about to become a Canadian citizen, something he describes as “the biggest honour” of his life.


Some 1.9 million people remain internally displaced in Sudan, which is also host to 1.1 million refugees and asylum-seekers.