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By Kristy Siegfried | 13 March, 2019

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

UN calls for continued support to Syrians ahead of Brussels meeting. In a joint statement today on the eve of a meeting of foreign ministers at the Brussels conference on Syria, the heads of three UN agencies warned that the Syria crisis is not over and called for “sustained and large-scale support to vulnerable Syrians, refugees, and the communities hosting them”. As the crisis in Syria enters its ninth year, humanitarian needs inside the country are at record levels, while the situation continues to drive the largest refugee crisis in the world, notes the statement. UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi, who visited Syria and Lebanon last week, said he had been “deeply troubled” by the widening gap between the massive needs of Syrian refugees and the support made available by the international refugee response. UNHCR together with the UN Development Programme and OCHA are calling on the international donor community to respond generously to a US$3.3 billion appeal for the response inside Syria and a $5.5 billion plan to assist refugees in neighbouring countries.

Fresh violence and aid shortages prompt new displacement in Syria’s Idlib. AP reports that violence is escalating in Syria’s last major opposition stronghold in north-western Idlib province, threatening to unravel a truce reached last September. Government forces have intensified strikes and bombardment of Idlib towns while militants from an al-Qaida linked group called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, which now controls most of the province, have stepped up attacks in retaliation. The British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights estimates that some 100,000 people have been displaced since mid-February, while Islamic Relief puts the figure at 40,000 during the month of February. Islamic Relief warned on Monday that recent days had seen a string of attacks in Idlib, including on medical facilities. The aid group said growing aid shortages were prompting much of the displacement, as people moved from village to village in search of food, shelter and medicine.


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR

EU urged to do more to prevent abuse of refugees and migrants at Croatia border. In a report published today, Amnesty International calls on the European Union to do more to prevent “systematic, unlawful and frequently violent pushbacks” of asylum-seekers by Croatian police at the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The rights group claims that nearly all of some 5,200 people staying in improvised camps in the two small Bosnian towns of Bihac and Velika Kladusa have been pushed back from Croatia or Slovenia and that nearly one third of those interviewed had experienced violence at the hands of the Croatian police. Many also described having their documents destroyed or possessions stolen before being forced back across the border.

“New waves of violence” possible in western DR Congo without government action, warns UN. UN investigators said on Tuesday that the killing of at least 535 villagers near the town of Yumbi, in western Democratic Republic of the Congo, in December may have amounted to crimes against humanity. The investigation team, who travelled to the region in January, estimate that 19,000 people fled clashes between the Banunu and Batende communities, including 16,000 who crossed the border into neighbouring Republic of the Congo. Many were killed as they tried to escape across the Congo River, while others were burned alive in their houses. A report based on the investigation warns that tensions between the two communities remain and “could give rise to new waves of violence at any time”.

Returning refugees faced with lack of aid and protection in northeast Nigeria. Some 30,000 people who recently returned from Cameroon to the north-east Nigerian town of Rann lack access to basic services and are at risk of further attacks, warned an umbrella group of 51 international aid organizations on Tuesday. In a statement, the Nigeria INGO Forum said the attacks on Rann in December and January, which prompted more than 40,000 people to flee across the border, had led to the withdrawal of all humanitarian agencies from the area. The volatile security situation has made it impossible for aid groups to return with much-needed assistance. Last week, UNHCR said it considered the returns “induced” after Nigerian officials promised assistance to returnees.


GET INSPIRED

Meet ‘Country for Syria’ – an international music collective based in Istanbul that brings together young musicians, including refugees, from several countries. The band blends traditional Middle Eastern music with country music.


DID YOU KNOW?

As the crisis in Syria enters its ninth year, 83 per cent of the population are living below the poverty line.