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By Kristy Siegfried | 13 June, 2019


UNHCR urges Italy to reconsider decree affecting rescue at sea. The UN Refugee Agency appealed to Italy on Wednesday to reconsider a decree adopted by its cabinet that would result in boats being fined for disembarking rescued refugees and migrants in Italy. Under the decree, which must still be approved by parliament, vessels that enter Italian waters without authorisation will face fines of up to €50,000. Repeat offenses would see vessels impounded. Although the final version of the decree does not explicitly mention NGO rescue ships, UNHCR warned its provisions could lead to shipmasters ignoring or hesitating to respond to distress calls, resulting in more lives being lost at sea. It called on the Italian government to amend the decree to focus on refugee protection and saving lives. Reuters reports that Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, on Wednesday threatened to use the new measures against a German NGO ship, Sea Watch 3, after it picked up 52 refugees and migrants from a rubber boat in distress some 75 kilometres from Libya.

Mexico to begin implementing measures to control flows of Central Americans. Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Wednesday that the deployment of 6,000 National Guard forces to Mexico’s southern border would progress rapidly under a deal reached with the United States on Friday. As of late Wednesday, Reuters reports that National Guard forces were not yet visible at the border with Guatemala. Ebrard said Mexico was also implementing a working group with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to coordinate efforts to tackle illegal immigration from those countries. US and Mexican officials have said that the effects of the measures would be evaluated in mid-July and that if the number of US-bound asylum-seekers and migrants crossing Mexico had not fallen, Mexico would consider new legislation to designate it as a safe third-country for asylum-seekers. In a statement on Wednesday, UNHCR appealed for an urgent meeting of States to map out a regional approach to growing forced displacement from Central America. The refugee agency said such an approach would need to include expansion of reception capacity and asylum infrastructures.


Syrian refugees in Lebanon forced to destroy homes. AFP reports from Arsal, in north-eastern Lebanon, where the government gave Syrian refugees a 9 June deadline to demolish shelters made of materials other than timber and plastic sheeting. The deadline was extended until the end of the month on Monday, but many refugees had already taken sledgehammers to their small cinderblock homes, reducing them to rubble. Around 35,000 refugees affected by the demolition order, including 15,000 in the Arsal region, will have to return to living in flimsy tents. UNHCR, which is providing those affected with tarpaulin and wood, has warned that the situation is likely to add to the financial burden on refugees, most of whom are already living in poverty.

Uncovering the lives of albino refugees in Uganda. Actress and UNHCR High-Profile Supporter Gugu Mbatha-Raw writes for Vogue about her recent trip to Uganda’s Rwamwanja refugee settlement, where she met a community of refugees living with albinism. Rwanwanja is home to an unusually high proportion of people living with albinism, who are vulnerable to health issues, such as skin cancer, and to stigma and persecution. Some of the young people Mbatha-Raw met had to flee their homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan after being attacked because of their albinism. The threat of skin cancer and lack of funding to provide them with sunscreen forces them to spend much of their lives indoors.

One mother and six newborns dying every two hours in Yemen. With public services, including maternal and child health services, on the brink of total collapse in Yemen, UNICEF said on Wednesday that one mother and six newborns were dying every two hours because of complications during pregnancy or birth. A UNICEF study of health services in the Sana’a, Taiz and Aden found that home births are on the rise as families sink deeper into poverty and can no longer afford transport to hospitals. UNICEF estimates that only about half of all health facilities in Yemen are fully functional and that even these face severe shortages in staff, equipment and medicines.

Aid groups express concern about Peru’s new entry requirements for Venezuelans. Dozens of regional and national civil society organizations known as the Working Group on Venezuelan Mobility have expressed concern about Peru’s recent decision to require Venezuelans wanting to enter the country to apply for humanitarian visas at consulates. In a statement, the aid and rights groups said the requirement, which is due to come into effect on 15 June, would pose “an insurmountable barrier” for most Venezuelans wanting to enter the country and would impact their right to seek asylum. The Peruvian government has also said it will continue deporting Venezuelans with criminal records or who provided false information to immigration authorities. Since April, 140 Venezuelans have been deported.


This home for the elderly in Riohacha, near Colombia’s border with Venezuela, has started providing food and shelter to Venezuelan families in need. Young and old are now supporting each other.


So far this year, 593,507 asylum-seekers and migrants have arrived at the southern US border from Mexico. Meanwhile, Mexico has reported a 196 per cent jump in asylum applications.