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By Kristy Siegfried | 15 March, 2019

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Donors pledge $7 billion in aid for displaced Syrians. International donors on Thursday pledged a record US$7 billion to support the humanitarian response inside Syria in 2019 as well as refugees and host communities in neighbouring countries. The pledges, made at the conclusion of a three-day conference in Brussels, surpassed the amount raised last year by nearly $1 billion. The EU said it would provide $633 million this year as well as $1.7 billion for refugees in Turkey. Germany, the US and the UK made the largest pledges. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that, while more Syrians displaced by the conflict were making the difficult decision to return home, the needs of Syrian refugees and their host communities were becoming “more, not less severe”. He spelled out three priorities for future assistance: renewed and more predictable support to host countries; more resettlement places for refugees; and placing refugees and internationally displaced people at the centre of return preparations.

EU asylum applications fall to pre-2015 levels. Asylum applications in EU countries dropped in 2018 to levels last seen in 2014, the EU statistics agency said on Thursday. The findings confirm a downward trend already recorded by the EU’s asylum agency, EASO, and Frontex, the EU border agency. According to Eurostat, around 580,000 people made a first claim for asylum in the EU last year, an 11 per cent drop from 2017. Germany remained the prime destination, followed by France and Greece. Italy recorded the largest drop in asylum applications, while Spain and Cyprus saw the largest increases. A statement by 25 NGOs noted that while asylum claims across Europe have dropped over the past three years, the number of applications filed in Greece has risen. The NGOs called for an end to a policy put in place three years ago that requires most asylum-seekers to remain on the Greek islands while their claims are processed and urged the EU to reach a common responsibility-sharing agreement for hosting asylum-seekers across Member States.


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR

How Uganda’s Bidibidi refugee settlement is transforming into a city. Three years ago, the area that now contains Bidibidi refugee settlement was a forest in north-western Uganda. Now it’s home to a quarter million refugees from South Sudan. This multimedia feature by National Geographic looks at how Bidibidi, now the world’s second largest refugee settlement, is becoming more like a city, aided by a progressive refugee policy that allows its residents to farm, work and move freely. Despite those policies, most residents live in subsistence limbo and there’s a need for more infrastructure and investment to support refugee businesses.

Venezuelans find new homes through Brazil’s internal relocation programme. More than 5,000 Venezuelans have moved from Brazil’s northern state of Roraima to 17 other states in the country through an internal relocation programme supported by UNHCR and other UN agencies. The programme began in April 2018 with the aim of reducing pressure on communities in northern Brazil, where most Venezuelans arrive after crossing the border and where many end up living on the streets or in shelters. The latest flight, carrying 225 Venezuelans, left Boa Vista, capital of Roraima State, on Wednesday. The refugees and migrants chose to go to 13 different cities across the country.

Land law creates new barrier to return for Myanmar’s displaced. An amendment to Myanmar’s land-ownership law that came into effect this week could see Rohingya refugees and other displaced ethnic minorities being prosecuted for trespassing if they attempt to return home, reports Refugees Deeply. Under the amendment, those occupying or using land legally designated as vacant, fallow or virgin (VFV) must apply for a permit to use it or face eviction and up to two years in jail. A six-month deadline was set to apply for a permit, but refugees living outside the country weren’t allowed to apply. Government figures show that 42 per cent of Rakhine State, where the majority of Rohingya originate, is considered VFV land.

Survivors says 45 died in Mediterranean trying to reach Spain. A Spanish human rights activist said on Thursday that 45 people had died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Spain.Helen Maleno, who runs a Tangiers-based NGO that passes on the locations of boats in distress to Moroccan and Spanish maritime authorities, said the figure was based on accounts from seven female survivors. A Moroccan official said he could not confirm the figure, but said 21 people had been rescued by the Moroccan navy after their rubber dinghy foundered. He said they were all in a critical state after being pulled from the water north of Nador. Only one corpse has been recovered.


GET INSPIRED

Edafe Okporo was forced to flee Nigeria after he was beaten for being an LGBTQ+ activist. After gaining asylum in the United States in 2017 and being released from the detention centre, he realized he had no idea where to go. Now he runs a shelter in Harlem, New York, for homeless refugees and asylum-seekers.


DID YOU KNOW?

In 2018, donors pledged US$4.4 billion in Brussels. Total fundraising reached just over $6 billion by the end of the year.