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By Kristy Siegfried | 13 January, 2020


Security Council authorizes scaled-back cross-border aid into Syria. Hours before a midnight deadline, the UN Security voted on Friday evening to renew cross-border aid into Syria, but re-authorized only two of four existing border crossing points for a period of six months instead of 12. While two crossings from Turkey into north-western Syria will remain in use, the Al Yarubiyah crossing from Iraq into north-eastern Syria will be closed. Another crossing point from Jordan, which has not been used recently, was also dropped. During heated exchanges, several Council members expressed disappointment about having to drop the Al Yarubiyah crossing in order to get a compromise resolution adopted. Meanwhile, air strikes in Syria’s north-western Idlib region halted on Sunday as a ceasefire came into force. Reuters reports that on the eve of the ceasefire on Saturday, at least 17 people were killed in air strikes targeting four towns in Idlib Governorate. More than 300,000 people in Idlib have fled attacks in recent weeks.

Two shipwrecks in Mediterranean leave more than 20 dead. A boat believed to be carrying around 50 people sank off the coast of the Greek island of Paxoi on Saturday morning, possibly en route to Italy. The Greek Coast Guard said 21 people were rescued while 12 others were found dead during a major search operation involving six patrol boats and three helicopters. In a second incident on Saturday evening, a boat carrying 19 people capsized off Turkey’s western coast, near the town of Cesme. The boat was thought to be heading for the Greek island of Chios. The Turkish Coast Guard said 11 people drowned, including eight children, while eight others were rescued.


Libya ceasefire in doubt hours after taking effect. The situations remain very fluid in Libya, according to media reports. Both the UN-backed government and forces loyal to General Khalifar Haftar said there had been fighting in the capital, Tripoli, from early on Sunday morning, a few hours after an internationally brokered ceasefire had started. Since conflict broke out in and around Tripoli in April 2019, some 150,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. The conflict has also impacted refugees and migrants, many of whom are detained in facilities on or near the front lines. Leaders of Libya’s warring sides are due to meet in Moscow today to sign a ceasefire agreement.

Congo killings may be crimes against humanity, finds UN rights report. Killings, rapes and other violence targeting the Hema community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s north-eastern Ituri province could constitute crimes against humanity, according to a report released on Friday by the UN’s Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO). Investigators found that at least 701 people were killed between December 2017 and September 2019, most of them by Lendu armed groups targeting the Hema and other ethnic groups. More than 556,000 people have fled their homes to other parts of the province while 57,000 have taken refuge in Uganda. While some of the displaced have returned home in recent months, The New Humanitarian reports that they face dire conditions in villages where their homes were looted or burned down.

Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon struggle to keep warm. Al Jazeera reports that many Syrian refugee families living in informal tent settlements in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley cannot afford to buy firewood or diesel fuel to keep warm this winter and are instead burning rubbish. UNHCR distributes one-off winter cash assistance to the most vulnerable families, but a shortage of funding means that fewer families are receiving support every year. Some refugees said they bought bags of defective nappies from a nearby factory and burned them to heat their homes. Meanwhile in Jordan, the Red Crescent Society is distributing winter supplies to refugee families facing frigid winter weather.

Sahel crisis in danger of slipping out of control. As French president Emmanuel Macron meets with his counterparts from five Sahel countries today to discuss military efforts to prevent worsening attacks by armed Islamist groups, the BBC looks at the figures behind a crisis which risks spreading further across West Africa. A stretch of land covering the border areas of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger is at the centre of the insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. The violence displaced over 945,000 people in the three countries during 2019, with Burkina Faso accounting for more than half that number. With some of the Islamist groups deliberately targeting schools and teachers, hundreds of thousands of children across the region have also been left without access to education.


For the first time, New Zealand’s Marlborough region is to become part of the country’s refugee resettlement programme. Starting in April, up to 100 Colombian refugees will start arriving in Blenheim, the region’s largest town. “At last, Blenheim gets the opportunity to make a difference,” said Red Cross South Island migration manager Sue Price. Her organization is recruiting volunteer support workers to help the new arrivals settle into their new homes.


In Burkina Faso, the number of people internally displaced by violence has risen from 40,000 at the end of 2018 to more than 500,000 at the end of 2019.