By Kristy Siegfried | 11 June, 2019
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Central Mediterranean dangers rising, UNHCR warns.Recent days have seen a sharp increase in departures of refugees and migrants from the Libyan coast while only one NGO rescue boat is still operating in the Central Mediterranean and both Malta and Italy have scaled back rescue missions. “If we do not intervene soon, there will be a sea of blood,” Carlotta Sami, UNHCR’s spokesperson in Italy told the Guardian on Sunday. According to aid groups, almost 700 people left the coast of Libya in recent days, only 5 per cent of whom were intercepted by the Libyan coastguard. Forty per cent arrived in Malta and 11 per cent in Italy; it is not known what happened to the others. Although the overall death toll in the Central Mediterranean has fallen compared to last year, the number of people drowning as a proportion of those attempting to cross from Libya to Europe has risen sharply to more than 15 per cent.
Venezuela reopens border with Colombia. Thousands of people crossed into Colombia to buy food and medicine on Saturday after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the partial reopening of a border that had been closed since February. Al Jazeera reports that long lines of Venezuelans waited to cross two bridges that span the border near the Colombian city of Cucuta. The bridges remain closed for vehicles. The border closure had forced tens of thousands of Venezuelans to reach Colombia using informal crossings often controlled by armed groups. According to new figures released by UNHCR and IOM on Friday, the exodus from Venezuela has now reached 4 million, a one million increase since November 2018. Colombia is hosting the largest number of Venezuelans, followed by Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Brazil. Visiting Colombia at the weekend, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie urged the international community to provide more support to Colombia and other countries in the region that are “trying to manage an unmanageable situation with insufficient resources”.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
Scores killed in attack on Mali village. At least 95 people were killed on Sunday night when gunmen attacked a traditional Dogon hunters’ village in central Mali. The attackers burned down houses and grain stores and killed anyone who tried to escape, according to a survivor who spoke to AFP. The death toll is expected to rise as the village reportedly had around 300 inhabitants and 19 people are still missing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but tensions have been rising since a Dogon militia was accused of carrying out a massacre in an ethnic Fulani village in March. Violence between Dogon hunters and Fulani herder communities has compounded a worsening security situation in Mali where some 133,000 people have been newly displaced since January, according to aid agencies. UN Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemned the attack and called on the Malian authorities to investigate.
EU sees rise in asylum claims in 2019. After several years in decline, the number of first-time asylum applications lodged in EU countries is growing again, reports DW News, drawing on figures from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). The agency recorded 206,500 claims in EU States in the first four months of the year, compared to 179,000 lodged during the same period in 2018. While Syrians still represent the largest nationality, the second largest number of asylum applicants in February and March came from Venezuelans followed by Afghans. Compared to a year ago, applications from Venezuelans have almost tripled. Separately, the New York Times reports that a small but increasing number of Central Americans fleeing gang violence are seeking asylum in Europe rather than attempting to reach the United States.
Seven killed as boat capsizes off Lesvos island. At least seven people have died, including two children and four women, after their boat sank in the Aegean Sea off the Greek island of Lesvos early this morning. Another 57 people have been rescued and brought to the port town of Mytilene, according to the Hellenic Coast Guard, which said that rescue teams were continuing the search the stretch of water between Lesvos and Turkey. Nearly 10,700 refugees and migrants have reached Greece by sea so far this year while 39 people have lost their lives while attempting the journey.
Syrian refugee Shadi met Elie, who is Lebanese, on a film set in Beirut. They quickly became best friends, bonding over music and food. “Having a person like him in my life makes me feel I’m not a stranger,” says Shadi.
DID YOU KNOW?
More than 400,000 Colombians who had been displaced to Venezuela have been forced to return by the catastrophic situation there.