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By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   | 14 January, 2019


Saudi teen Rahaf al-Qunun arrives in Canada. The 18-year-old Saudi woman arrived in Toronto on Saturday after the Canadian government offered her emergency refugee resettlement. Al-Qunun captured the world’s attention last week when she took to Twitter after barricading herself in a hotel room at Bangkok’s main airport to avoid being deported. She said she feared for her life if she were returned to her family. A number of countries had expressed interest in resettling her, including Australia, but it was Canada that acted quickly. Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, who met al-Qunun at Toronto airport, described her as “a very brave new Canadian”.

Reports of new caravan of migrants and asylum-seekers forming in Honduras. The new caravan is scheduled to depart on Tuesday from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, according to media reports. It’s unclear how many people will join the trek north. Mexico’s new government, led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office on 1 December, says it will deal with the new caravan humanely and that those who enter the country legally will be granted visas to stay in Mexico or permits to travel under the supervision of migration authorities towards the US border. Thousands of members of a previous caravan are still waiting in Tijuana to begin their asylum applications.


Syrian refugees in Lebanon endure new storm. Al Jazeera reports that another winter storm is bringing more rain and snowfall to informal refugee settlements in Lebanon’s eastern and northern regions. Many of the settlements were still flooded from Storm Norma, which hit the country on 6 January, affecting more than 11,000 Syrian refugees across the country. In the Bekaa Valley town of Ghazze, warnings of the new storm caused some families to seek temporary shelter in incomplete housing units, garages or evacuated schools.

Plight of unaccompanied refugee and migrant children in Spain prompts alarm. More than 12,000 unaccompanied refugee and migrant children were estimated to be living in Spain as of 2018, with about 6,000 arriving by sea last year. Voice of America reports that thousands are being housed in overcrowded reception centres and that hundreds more have left to take their chances on the streets, where they are vulnerable to exploitation. While right-wing parties have seized on the children as an issue ahead of a possible snap election this year, NGOs argue that the system for handling and protecting unaccompanied children is haphazard, with children being transferred from centre to centre without proper planning.

Elderly Ukrainians cross a minefield to pick up pensions. The Washington Post follows Antonina and Leonid, an elderly couple who live in Luhansk, one of the breakaway territories of eastern Ukraine controlled by rebels loyal to Russia, as they make the day-long journey to collect their state pensions on the other side of the front line in government-controlled Ukraine. Around 80 per cent of those crossing the Stanitisa Luhanska checkpoint, one of five locations where Ukrainians can cross between rebel and government-controlled land, are pensioners. They often wait hours at checkpoints and then often have to travel dozens of miles by bus or shared taxi to pick up their money.

Polish mayor in critical condition after being stabbed. Paweł Adamowicz, the mayor of the northern coastal city of Gdańsk, was in critical condition Sunday evening after being stabbed in the heart by a knife-wielding assailant who stormed the stage during the finale of a national charity event. He was brought to the Medical University of Gdańsk for surgery and remained “in a very serious condition” today. Adamowicz has advocated tolerance for migrants and refugees and helped launch an “Immigrant Integration Model” for Gdańsk that has since been taken up by other Polish cities.


Just three years after arriving in Canada, 21-year-old Syrian refugee Shoushi Bakarian is in her third year of an aerospace engineering degree at Montreal’s Concordia University. She also has two part-time jobs with promising prospects in her field and somehow finds time to lead a Scout troop. At one of her jobs at Stratos Aviation, she helped design a new ventilation device for Cessna Aircraft.


There were nearly 20 million refugees of concern to UNHCR around the world at the end of 2017, but less than one per cent were resettled that year.