By Kristy Siegfried | 14 January, 2020
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Nearly 1,000 people returned to Libyan shores in first two weeks of year. At least 953 people have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya in the first two weeks of 2020, according to the UN’s migration agency (IOM), which said that most were disembarked in Tripoli and all were taken to detention centres. Alarm Phone, an NGO that fields distress calls from refugees and migrants trying to cross the Central Mediterranean, said on Monday that over a four-day period from 9 to 12 January it was alerted to 22 boats in distress which had left from Libya carrying about 1,150 people. Some 400 of them were rescued by NGO boats and the Armed Forces of Malta, while about 700 were intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libya, where fighting continued in the capital on Monday, despite a fragile ceasefire. Alarm Phone accused the Armed Forces of Malta of “not acting quickly or adequately” to distress calls it passed on. Some 237 people rescued by NGO vessels are still at sea waiting for a port of safety to be assigned.
Refugee response in Sudan urgently in need of more funding. UNHCR today called for increased international support for Sudan as it launched a new funding appeal for US$477 this year to help over 900,000 refugees in the country as well as the communities hosting them. The call comes at a time when the country is undergoing a major political transition and struggling with its own internal displacement, including more than 40,000 people who have fled violence in West Darfur in recent weeks. The largest group of refugees in Sudan are some 840,000 South Sudanese, but thousands of refugees from the Central African Republic have also been arriving since September 2019. UNHCR’s operation in Sudan was among its most under-resourced last year, with less than a third of needed funding raised.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
More elderly Venezuelans cross into Colombia as crisis deepens. The Irish Times reports that as the situation in Venezuela continues to worsen, older people are an increasingly common sight among those crossing the border into Colombia. Some are accompanying grandchildren they have looked after since the parents left Venezuela in search of work several years ago. Others come alone, their pensions having become almost worthless and desperate not to put pressure on their already struggling families. Many arrive with complex health problems that have gone untreated back home and having lost everything they spent their lives working for.
Dozens of German cities petition to take in more refugees. A coalition of dozens of German municipalities on Monday demanded that the German government allow them to begin accepting refugees rescued from the Mediterranean and stranded in Greece, Italy and elsewhere. “We would be prepared to take in more people if we were allowed,” said Mike Schubert, the mayor of Potsdam, one of 120 municipalities that have joined the Cities of Safe Harbours initiative since it launched in June 2019. The coalition has asked the government to trigger a provision in Germany’s Residence Act which allows for humanitarian residence permits to be immediately issued.
Hold-out opposition groups in South Sudan commit to ceasefire. AFP reports that South Sudan’s government and opposition groups that had rejected an earlier peace deal agreed to a ceasefire on Wednesday, following talks in Rome. While peace has largely held across the country since a September 2018 peace agreement, sporadic fighting has continued in the Central Equatoria region between government troops and the National Salvation Front, whose leader signed the agreement in Rome. The ceasefire was mediated by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic charity with ties to the Vatican which has also organized safe passage to Europe for refugees. Nearly four million people remain displaced by the conflict in South Sudan, including 2.2 million living as refugees.
Refugees and migrants take huge risks on overland route to Greece. Al Jazeera reports from a remote area of north-eastern Greece, where refugees and migrants making the overland journey from Turkey are taking enormous risks to reach Europe. Smugglers put them on small boats to cross the Evros River and then pack them into vehicles that sometimes become involved in deadly car chases with the police. Others travel on foot, following smugglers’ instructions to stay off main roads and sleeping in abandoned buildings. Two sisters from Somalia recently froze to death in each other’s arms while attempting the journey.
Baby Kristtian was the first child born in Colombia to Venezuelan parents to be granted Colombian nationality under legislation passed by the Colombian government in August 2019 to prevent children like Kristtian from becoming stateless. Some 28,000 children benefited from the measure last year and can now access vital services such as health care and education.
DID YOU KNOW?
Of more than 4.5 million Venezuelans who have left their country, some 1.6 million are now living in Colombia.