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By Kristy Siegfried | 10 October, 2019


Civilians flee air and ground offensive in north-eastern Syria. Turkish troops advanced into north-eastern Syria on Wednesday evening following airstrikes and artillery shelling that hit in or near at least five towns along the Syrian-Turkish border, according to the New York Times. Video footage showed trucks filled with women and children fleeing south with columns of smoke rising in the background. Activists and observers said at least seven civilians had so far been killed. Tens of thousands of people are on the move to escape the fighting, according to UNHCR which is calling for “unfettered humanitarian access” to reach those newly displaced. “Hundreds of thousands of civilians in northern Syria are now in harm’s way,” said UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi. “Civilians and civilian infrastructure must not be a target.” The UN Security Council is due to convene today to discuss the offensive at the request of five European members. Speaking to VOA about Turkey’s plans to establish a “safe zone” for refugees in north-east Syria, UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said that historically, so-called safe zones have not proved safe for civilians.

Fearful refugees demand to be moved from South Africa. Hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers have been staging a sit-in outside the Cape Town offices of the UN Refugee Agency since Tuesday demanding to be moved from South Africa because they no longer feel safe there. In August and early September, xenophobic violence left 12 people dead, most of them South Africans, while mobs looted and destroyed foreign-owned businesses in and around Johannesburg, and over 1,500 foreign nationals were forced to flee their homes. In a statement, UNHCR acknowledged the issues raised by the refugees and said it was working closely with the government to provide international protection to those in need and to find immediate and long-term solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers.


Asylum seekers approved for medial transfers detained in Port Moresby. The Guardian reports that asylum-seekers who had been approved for medical transfers to Australia are among 52 men detained by Papua New Guinean authorities at a facility in Port Moresby for the past two months. More than half of the men taken to Bomana immigration detention centre were at some point in the medevac process which allows sick refugees and asylum-seekers at off-shore facilities to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment. Advocates, lawyers and doctors have expressed increasing concern in recent weeks over the lack of information about the men held in Bomana. The family of one man who was arrested days before he was due to be flown to Australia for medical treatment said they had not talked to him for more than a month.

Thousands of refugees in UK to lose access to services in event of no-deal Brexit. More than 16,000 people have backed an open letter calling on the UK government to reverse planned funding cuts to refugee services in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The cuts would leave some 30,000 refugees struggling to access help with housing, healthcare and employment, according to the Refugee Council. The services are currently funded by an EU grant programme called the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) which is issued to charities via the Home Office. The charities say the cuts run counter to government assurances that the funding would be secure after the UK leaves the EU.

US-bound asylum-seeker puts down roots in Mexico. Reuters reports on the friendship between Mexican anthropologist Veronica Ruiz Lagier and Castillo, a young Honduran asylum-seeker who had intended to pass through Mexico on his way to the United States. After hearing that Castillo had been injured in a bus accident just south of the US border, Lagier chipped into help cover his medical expenses and the two stayed in touch. She eventually convinced him to move to Mexico City where he now lives in an apartment with two other Honduran youths that Lagier and a group of mothers from her daughter’s preschool helped them rent. The report is part of a Reuters series following the lives six Central Americans who joined so-called caravans moving northwards through the region in 2018 and early 2019.


Since winning the Nansen Refugee Award in 2013, Sister Angélique Namika has used the prize money and recognition it brought her to expand activities at her Centre for Reintegration and Development in north-east Democratic Republic of the Congo where she helps women recover from the effects of the region’s conflict. She has set up a bakery which employs 50 women, and built a school and a paediatric centre. To date, she has helped transform the lives of 22,500 women and girls.


With 5.6 million Syrians living as refugees and another 6.2 million displaced inside their country, Syria’s displacement crisis is already the largest in the world.