By Kristy Siegfried | 13 November, 2020
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Four shipwrecks off Libyan coast leave over 110 dead in three days. Four shipwrecks in the space of three days have claimed 114 lives in the Central Mediterranean. In the largest incident, on Thursday, at least 74 people are believed to have drowned after a shipwreck off the coast of Al Khums, east of Tripoli. Some 47 survivors were brought to shore by the Libyan Coast Guard and fishermen. A few hours later, the Libyan Red Crescent and a local NGO helped three women who were the only survivors of another shipwreck, which killed 20 people off the coast of Surman, in Libya. On Wednesday, rescuers with the Spanish NGO Open Arms pulled over 100 people from the water after their rubber dinghy broke apart, but six people died, including a six-month-old baby boy. On Tuesday, another child was among 14 people who died in a separate shipwreck off Libya’s coast. Eleven survivors were taken back to Libya. The Open Arms is currently the only NGO rescue boat operating in the Central Mediterranean. UNHCR and IOM have repeatedly called for search and rescue capacity to be strengthened to better respond to distress calls.
Thousands flee into Sudan as Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict worsens. After over a week of fighting between Ethiopian federal forces and Tigray regional security forces, UNHCR said today that the clashes had already driven more than 11,000 people to flee into Sudan, with more arriving by the day. The agency warned that the fighting in Tigray was moving closer to Shimbelba refugee camp, which hosts 6,500 Eritrean refugees now at risk of being displaced again. Some of the refugees have already begun arriving at Hitsats camp, 50 kilometres away, and UNHCR said it was considering relocation options for the region. Conditions inside Tigray are worsening amid power outages, increasingly scarce food and fuel supplies and an information blackout. The UN is negotiating with both sides in the conflict for humanitarian corridors to be opened, Ann Encontre, UNHCR’s representative in Ethiopia, told Reuters in an interview. In Sudan, UNHCR said a transit center at Hamdayet border crossing in Kassala State, where the majority of refugees are arriving, is already overwhelmed with 6,000 people. The Sudanese government has approved the establishment of a refugee camp in Um Rakuba, 80 kilometres from the border.
Brutal attacks in northern Mozambique worsen humanitarian crisis. Thousands of people have fled Muidumbe district in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province following attacks on several villages since last week. According to media reports, a militant group armed with machetes killed as many as 20 boys and men in one village and abducted several women and children. The UN Secretary-General has called on authorities in Mozambique to investigate the reports and hold the perpetrators accountable. UNHCR said many of those fleeing the attacks had found refuge in Mueda district where they were staying with family members and local communities. Others continue to arrive on beaches in Pemba district. The recent violence is part of a worsening insurgency in northern Mozambique that has displaced at least 355,000 people, according to the UNHCR, up from 90,000 in January.
ONE QUESTION FOR…
Wanja Munaita, an assistant protection officer with UNHCR in Kenya
What are some of the main difficulties that stateless people in Kenya face without identity documents?
“From 2018, access to primary education requires one to have a birth certificate. Thousands of stateless children do not have birth certificates for various reasons. The lucky ones who get birth certificates face other barriers. Their parents often fall short of school fees and they cannot access government bursaries because of their lack of identity documents.
“Then there all the other things that a stateless person cannot do: registering a SIM card, opening a bank account, buying property, owning a business registered in their names, access to formal employment….the list is endless.
“During this difficult time of COVID-19, they have endured what no human should. While the Kenyan government had relief programmes for vulnerable people across the country, stateless persons could not benefit because they lack identity cards. The majority continue to sleep hungry, including children.“It is time to recognize that stateless persons are human too, and grant them belonging. It is time to completely end statelessness.”
STORIES TO WATCH
Displaced Iraqis face uncertainty as camps close. Authorities in Iraq have begun rapidly closing 10 camps for internally displaced people, in some cases giving residents as little as two days to vacate their shelters. So far, around 48,000 IDPs have been told that their camps will be closed before the end of this month and the government has indicated that more camps will be closed before the end of the year. UNHCR said today that it was concerned about the large-scale closures, so near to the start of winter and with some of the IDPs saying they are unable to return to areas in central and western Iraq that have been heavily affected by years of terror and fighting. Some have already moved from the camps into rented accommodation, but fear eviction given their limited resources. UNHCR said it was boosting support to those returning to their homes and villages.
Canary Islands appeal for help amid more boat arrivals. The president of the Canary Islands appealed for urgent help from the Spanish government and the EU after around 2,200 migrants and refugees arrived on the archipelago over the weekend, putting further strain on already overstretched reception facilities. Nearly 2,000 of the new arrivals are being housed in a makeshift tent camp on a dock in Mogán, a town in Gran Canaria while thousands of others are staying in empty hotels. The town’s mayor said on Wednesday that due to a shortage of tents on the dock, many were sleeping outdoors. She called on the Spanish government to open military installations to house the mostly West African migrants and refugees. Nearly 15,000 have arrived in the Canaries by sea so far this year, many of them in the last few weeks, according to UNHCR figures.
UK to resume refugee resettlement in new year. The UK Home Office announced this week that it would restart refugee resettlement early next year after pausing the programme in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Independent reports that local councils have called for more urgency, saying they are ready to take in refugee families “as soon as possible”. Refugee families due to come to the UK in March told The Independent they had sold many of their possessions in anticipation of leaving and had been in limbo for the past seven months. Other countries have already resumed their resettlement schemes and started receiving refugees, including France, Spain and the United States.
This week marks six years since UNHCR launched its #IBelong Campaign to end statelessness by 2024. Activist Maha Mamo shares her story of being born stateless and growing up in the shadows.
DID YOU KNOW?
Even before the current influx from Ethiopia, Sudan was already hosting nearly one million refugees and asylum-seekers, most of them from South Sudan and Eritrea.