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By Kristy Siegfried | 12 December, 2019


India passes controversial citizenship bill that excludes Muslims. India’s parliament on Wednesday approved an amendment to the country’s citizenship law which establishes a path to citizenship for persecuted religious groups who arrived in the country from neighbouring Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015, with the exception of Muslims. After being passed by India’s lower house of parliament on Monday, the upper house approved it by 125 votes to 105. It will become law once the president signs it, which is considered a formality. Opponents of the legislation have described it as exclusionary and in violation of the secular principles enshrined in India’s constitution. Thousands of troops were deployed and a curfew was imposed today in several districts of north-eastern Assam state, where violent protests against the new law broke out overnight. Meanwhile, the Indian Union Muslim League, a political party, challenged the bill in the Supreme Court.

UN head demands bolder climate action or “we are doomed”. UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged major world economies on Wednesday to make more ambitious commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions as talks at the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid draw to a close. “If we just go on as we are, we are doomed,” he told Reuters in an interview. Scientists say that current pledges are nowhere near enough to stabilize the climate in time to avert catastrophic sea-level rise and extreme weather that would force millions more people from their homes. “More people will be at risk of displacement unless urgent action is taken,” agreed UNHCR’s newly appointed Special Advisor on Climate Change, Andrew Harper, who is at COP25. He said the UN refugee agency was concerned that climate change will act as a “threat multiplier” for conflict and instability by depleting natural resources and diminishing crop yields and livestock. “We are already seeing this play out in the Sahel, as one example,” said Harper.


Austrian parliament suspends deportations of asylum-seekers in apprenticeships. Austrian lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill suspending deportations of asylum-seekers while they are carrying out apprenticeships. Asylum-seekers in Austria were allowed to start apprenticeships until September of last year in areas with labour shortages and no other suitable candidates for positions. Recent cases of well-integrated asylum-seekers working as apprentices and facing deportation have generated public sympathy There are currently around 800 asylum-seekers in apprenticeships, many of them in the hospitality industry.

Al-Hudaydah still most dangerous place in Yemen for civilians, say aid groups. More than a dozen aid groups warned on Thursday that the Yemeni port city at the heart of last year’s Stockholm Agreement remains the most dangerous place for civilians. Over the past year, 799 civilians have been killed or wounded in the city and surrounding province – the highest toll countrywide, according to a statement released by the aid groups. Close to 390,000 Yemenis have been uprooted from their homes in 2019, half of them from three governorates – Al-Hudaydah, Hajjah and Al Dhale’e. While the total civilian death toll this year of 1,008 is down from 2,049 in 2018, the aid agencies said Yemen was still the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 10 million people facing starvation and 7 million malnourished.

Rescued refugees and migrants recall Libya “hell”. Al Jazeera reports from the Ocean Viking, an NGO rescue ship, shortly after the crew rescued 90 people from an overcrowded rubber boat in distress in the Central Mediterranean. The passengers had spent more than 36 hours at sea after departing from the Libyan coast. Many of those rescued had spent time in detention centres where they said they were only fed intermittently and had seen friends die as a result of the dire conditions. According to a medic with Médecins Sans Frontières working on board the boat, most of those rescued have suffered physical or sexual violence in Libya. UNHCR estimates that 4,200 people are being held in “official” detention centres across Libya.

Displaced children in Cameroon attending “secret schools”. The BBC reports from the city of Douala, in southwest Cameroon, where illegal schools are mushrooming in a region where most schools have shut down over the last three years of fighting between security forces and separatists. Many of those displaced by the fighting have fled to Douala, where proprietors of unregistered schools are profiting from parents desperate to give their children an education. The authorities have shut down more than 260 such schools since the start of the school year in September, but critics say they are not doing enough to offer alternatives for displaced students.


As an Afghan refugee in Pakistan, Saleema Rehman has faced a lifetime of barriers in her quest to get an education and become a doctor. After years of schooling and a three-year residency as a gynaecologist at a hospital in Rawalpindi, she will soon complete her training, but now she must hope for the legal rights that will allow her to practise as a doctor in Pakistan.


Three years of violence and instability in Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions have left more than 855,000 children out of school, including almost 150,000 children who have been displaced from their homes.