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By Kristy Siegfried | 15 January, 2020

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Greek islands to strike over government handling of refugees and migrants. The Aegean islands of Chios, Lesvos and Samos will shut all commercial and state services on 22 January in a protest against the Greek government’s handling of a surge in refugees and migrants arriving by sea from Turkey in recent months. According to UNHCR figures, of nearly 60,000 refugees and migrants who arrived by boat from Turkey in 2019, some 41,100 remain on the islands. Kostas Moutzouris, the governor of the northern Aegean region, who announced the strike, said transfers to the mainland had failed to keep up with the pace of new arrivals. Separately, council members on the island of Chios rejected a government proposal to set up a new, closed pre-departure centre for asylum-seekers there.

Turkey and Russia discuss secure zone in north-western Syria. Turkey and Russia are discussing the establishment of a secure zone within Syria’s north-western Idlib region, where people displaced by fighting could shelter during the winter, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday. Some 300,000 people have been displaced by an escalation of violence in Idlib since mid-December. Witnesses reported on Wednesday that several opposition-held towns in southern Idlib were again being hit by air strikes after a two-day lull following a 12 January ceasefire agreement.


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR

Concerns about asylum-seekers detained in Papua New Guinea. The Guardian Australia reports that up to 20 asylum-seekers remain in Papua New Guinea’s Bomana immigration detention centre amid concerns about their health, welfare and legal rights. PNG authorities arrested 52 men who had previously been held on Manus Island in August after they were deemed not eligible for refugee status. While most of the men have been released since signing agreements to be voluntarily returned to their home countries, 18 are believed to remain inside Bomana in conditions one man previously detained there described as “designed to torture people”.

Displaced Yemenis endure another winter in limbo. Reuters reports from a camp for internally displaced people in Khamir, in Yemen’s north-western province of Amran, where rain leaks through holes in makeshift tents and children warm themselves near open fires. Some 3.6 million Yemenis – around 12 per cent of the population – have been displaced by nearly five years of war, including nearly 400,000 in 2019. Although food security has improved over the past year and diplomatic initiatives have led to a decrease in air strikes in some parts of the country in recent months, those living at the camp in Khamir said it was still unsafe to return home where their houses had been destroyed.

Questions raised over South Africa’s new refugee law. Representatives of refugees and asylum-seekers in South Africa have said they will go to court to challenge a new law which they say limits freedoms of speech and expression guaranteed under the country’s constitution. As a result of amendments to the Refugee Act, which came into effect on 1 January, refugees can be stripped of their asylum status for participating in political activity related to their home countries. AP reports that refugees have long considered South Africa a place where they could be outspoken about the policies of governments back home. A spokesperson for the African Diaspora Forum said the new law could have a “drastic effect” on newcomers and those already in South Africa.

Millions in Horn of Africa on the run from violence and extreme weather. Thousands of people in Ethiopia, Somalia and other parts of eastern Africa are being displaced each day by climate shocks and violence, with preliminary date from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) suggesting that an average of 3,715 people were displaced every day in Ethiopia and 1,860 in Somalia. At the end of a visit to the region on Wednesday, International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer said people in the region are “increasingly caught between deadly extremes” with those already on the run from violence being uprooted again by droughts and floods.


GET INSPIRED

Fatima’s favourite food is potatoes. But she can’t eat them because of a chronic kidney condition that leaves her feeling exhausted and in need of dialysis three times a week. A Syrian refugee living in Lebanon, she could not afford the life-saving treatment without help from an NGO that covers the full cost of dialysis for dozens of Syrian refugees.


DID YOU KNOW?

Nearly half (48 per cent) of refugees and migrants on Greece’s Aegean islands are from Afghanistan. Syrians account for another 20 per cent.