By Kristy Siegfried | 14 August, 2019
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
New wave of vulnerable Venezuelans arriving in Colombia. Humanitarian groups running facilities at Colombia’s border with Venezuela told Al Jazeera that they have seen increased numbers of Venezuelans crossing since last week. They warn that recent US government sanctions on Venezuela as well as new immigration restrictions due to take effect in Ecuador on 25 August could be behind the surge. The Washington Post reported last week that as conditions in Venezuela continue to worsen, the country’s most vulnerable – impoverished women and children, the elderly, ill and disabled – are joining the exodus. Colombia, which is hosting more Venezuelans than any other nation, has welcomed Venezuelan children into its schools and extended free health care to the new arrivals, but many Venezuelan families still sleep in the streets or in squalid conditions in all of Colombia’s major cities.
One man’s fifth attempt to escape Libya succeeds. AFP spoke to Djibril from Chad, one of 356 people rescued from the Central Mediterranean since Friday by an NGO rescue ship, the Ocean Viking. He recounted his five attempts to get out of Libya and reach Europe, starting in July 2016, when the boat he was travelling in sank and half of its passengers drowned. Other attempts ended in detention, forced labour and the shooting of three of his fellow passengers as they tried to evade arrest. Médecins Sans Frontières and SOS Méditerranée, the two charities operating the Ocean Viking, have formally requested a safe port to disembark those on board, many of whom are survivors of abuses in Libya. UNHCR yesterday said that more efforts were needed to move refugees out of harm’s way in Libya, where it said intense fighting and arbitrary detentions mean it cannot be considered a safe port, and that no one should be returned there.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
Mystery militia sows fear in DR Congo’s Ituri. With the world’s eyes on the Ebola outbreak in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, The New Humanitarian reports that continued attacks on remote villages in Ituri province have attracted little attention, despite claiming at least 360 lives since June and displacing more than 300,000 people. Last month, the Congolese army said it had “neutralized” the armed group it said was responsible for the violence, but locals told TNH that military operations have simply scattered the fighters, who continue to attack far-flung villages. The largest displacement camp in the provincial capital, Bunia, has almost tripled in size since June, and cramped conditions have allowed measles to spread. A new camp is being built to cope with the numbers, but a government official said support remains inadequate.
Surveys suggest shift in US attitudes to asylum policy. A new Gallup poll has found that 57 per cent of Americans polled in July supported allowing Central American refugees into the country, up from 51 per cent in December, when the numbers of asylum-seekers crossing the southern border were significantly lower. Another survey carried out by the Pew Research Centre assessed the American public’s top priorities for dealing with asylum-seekers. It found that 86 per cent supported increasing the number of judges handling asylum cases and 82 per cent felt it was important to provide safe and sanitary conditions for newly arrived asylum-seekers. A majority (69 per cent) also supported providing more assistance to the countries in Central America where many asylum-seekers are coming from.
DNA tests hold hope for families of missing refugees, but obstacles remain. The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) is using advanced DNA identification technology to help identify missing refugees and migrants, but the task is a daunting one, complicated by a lack of support and cooperation from all the governments involved and chaotic record-keeping in countries where bodies wash up on beaches. Time magazine reports that years of lobbying by the ICMP has persuaded some European countries to begin uploading DNA samples and other identifying characteristics into a centralized database, but that more funding is needed to continue the project and in the meantime, many relatives are left waiting and hoping, unable to move on with their lives.
New show maps century of art and displacement. The New York Times reviews “The Warmth of the Other Suns ” – an exhibition now showing in Washington that features the work of 75 artists who have engaged with current and past refugee crises. It includes stark portraits of arrivals to Ellis Island in the 1920s, Liu Xiaodong’s painting of Syrian refugees in Lesvos and the work of Mexican photojournalist Guillermo Arias, examining detention of asylum-seekers at the US southern border. Several of the artists were or have been refugees themselves, including Mark Rothko and Arshile Gorky.
These Lebanese and refugee women come together twice a week to cook food that they then distribute to needy families. In the process of learning how to cook dishes from their different countries, they’ve become close friends.
DID YOU KNOW?
In the first seven months of 2019, arrivals of asylum-seekers and migrants to Europe were 30 per cent lower than the same period last year.