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By Kristy Siegfried  | 13 September, 2019


Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy. UNHCR evacuated a group of 98 refugees, including 52 unaccompanied children, from Libya to Italy on Thursday, the third such evacuation to Italy this year. The refugees were from Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia and many had been held in detention in Libya for as long as eight months. UNHCR described such as evacuations as “a lifeline” for vulnerable refugees being held in detention or living in urban areas affected by ongoing clashes in Tripoli, the capital. The evacuation follows the announcement this week that Rwanda has agreed to receive up to 500 refugees and asylum-seekers from Libya. In a statement today, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi urged other countries to step forward with solutions for the more than 3,600 refugees and asylum-seekers who remain in detention centres at risk of abuse and harm from the fighting in Tripoli. He said Rwanda and Niger, where a centre for refugees evacuated from Libya has been operating for nearly two years, were “quietly demonstrating real responsibility sharing”.

New Italian government reaches EU deal on rescue boat. Italy said on Thursday it had reached a deal with EU countries to share responsibility for 82 people rescued this week by the Ocean Viking in two operations off Libya. The government, which was sworn in last week, has promised a change of tack on migration, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announcing his desire to adopt a “responsible, accurate and structured” approach. On Thursday, Conte said that “several EU countries” had agreed to take in the Ocean Viking’s passengers, but a spokesperson with SOS Méditerranée, which runs the vessel along with Médecins Sans Frontières, told Reuters they had received no indication the boat could dock at an Italian port. The ship is currently midway between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa. Malta’s armed forces airlifted a heavily pregnant woman and her husband from the ship on Wednesday.


EU to boost aid to Colombia for managing Venezuelan influx. The European Union will give an additional €30 million (US$33 million) in aid to Colombia to help it deal with an influx of Venezuelan refugees and migrants. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini made the announcement on Thursday at a joint press conference with Colombian President Iván Duque, who said that Colombia and the EU would hold a conference in Brussels in October in a bid to raise more funding for Latin American countries hosting Venezuelans. The Economist reports that the international community has been slow to wake up to the crisis, and that several countries in the region have recently tightened entry requirements for Venezuelans, increasing the pressure on Colombia and Brazil, which have so far kept their borders open.

Aid delivered to thousands of displaced Syrians at remote desert camp. The UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent on Wednesday finalized the delivery of 22 trucks of much-needed humanitarian aid to 15,000 internally displaced people who remain in the remote Rukban settlement in south-eastern Syria on the border with Jordan. It was the first delivery of aid to Rukban since February and conditions there have reportedly been deteriorating in recent months. Since February, around half of the camp’s population have left for government-controlled areas. Many of those who remain either cannot afford transport or fear for their safety if they go to government-controlled areas, according to the UN, which said it will support families who wish to leave.

Tanzania closes Burundian refugee market ahead of repatriation deadline. VOA reports that Tanzanian authorities closed down a market at Nyarugusu camp this week and banned Burundian refugees from conducting business in the camp, depriving many of their only source of income. Late last month, Tanzania and Burundi announced that they had reached an agreement to start repatriating 200,000 Burundian refugees from Tanzania starting on 1 October, at a rate of 2,000 a week. UNHCR, which was not involved in the bilateral agreement, has said that conditions in Burundi are not “conducive to promote returns” and that hundreds still flee the country every month. Rights groups, including Amnesty International, have expressed fears that the repatriations will not be wholly voluntary.

Incoming European Commission chief calls for new pact on asylum and migration. The incoming European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has reportedly outlined her agenda on asylum and migration in letters to the two commissioners tasked with working on these issues. Margaritis Schinas has been nominated to take on responsibility for migration under the title Vice President for Protecting our European Way of Life, the wording of which has drawn criticism from various quarters. Von der Leyen asked Schinas “to look at all aspects [of migration], including external borders, systems for asylum and return, the Schengen Area of free movement and working with our partners outside the EU.” In the second letter, von der Leyen asked Home Affairs Commissioner-designate Ylva Johansson to “relaunch the reform of asylum rules”. She also called for “a new, more sustainable, reliable and permanent approach to search and rescue, replacing existing ad-hoc solutions”.


The film “For Sama”, which opens in the UK today, is a love letter from a young Syrian mother to her daughter. Filmed by Waad al-Kateab over five years and edited by British film-maker Edward Watts, it documents the uprising in Aleppo, Waad’s growing love for a doctor, Hamza, and the birth of their first child, Sama, as the conflict rages around them and Waad wrestles with the decision to flee or stay.


UNHCR has helped 1,474 vulnerable refugees to leave Libya so far this year, including 710 to Niger, 393 to Italy, and 371 who have been resettled to other countries in Europe and Canada.