Select Page

By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   | 16 January, 2019


Syrians in ‘life and death’ struggle in remote desert camp. Harsh conditions in Rukban, a makeshift camp housing some 45,000 displaced Syrians on the border with Jordan, are increasingly putting people’s lives at risk, warned the UN on Tuesday. At least eight children – most of them infants under four months – have died in the last month at Rukban due to extreme cold and lack of medical care. “Needs for assistance in Rukban are beyond urgent,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF’s regional director. “They are extremely acute and have become a matter of life and death.” No humanitarian supplies have reached Rukban since the arrival of an inter-agency aid convoy in November. The UN on Tuesday called on all sides to urgently facilitate a new delivery of humanitarian supplies to the camp.

EU seeks temporary deal on rescued refugees and migrants. The Guardian reports that the European Union is attempting to reach agreement on temporary arrangements for the handling of refugees and migrants rescued at sea following a series of incidents that have left rescue vessels stranded in the Mediterranean for days. Most recently, 49 people were stuck at sea for almost three weeks before a deal was struck to allow them to disembark in Malta and be dispersed among eight EU states. Speaking in the European Parliament on Tuesday, European commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos called for an end to such “ad-hoc solutions”. The plan for a temporary fix until EU states can agree on reforms to EU asylum law reportedly has the backing of around 10 member states.


Colombia closes Bogota camp for Venezuelans. Authorities in the Colombian capital, Bogota, evacuated a camp housing some 600 Venezuelans on Tuesday, reports Reuters. Since November, a football pitch had served as a temporary shelter for Venezuelan migrants and asylum-seekers who had previously been sleeping outside the city’s main bus terminal. From the outset, however, 15 January had been set as the camp’s closure date and there are no plans by the city to open more shelters, according to Bogota’s Secretary of Social Integration. Those leaving the camp told Reuters they had no idea what they would do next.

Refugees and migrants returned to Libyan detention centres, sold to smugglers. Detainees at the Souq al Khamis detention centre in Khoms used hidden phones to contact Irish Times reporter Sally Hayden. They alleged that refugees and migrants recently intercepted trying to cross the Mediterranean and sent to Souq al Khamis were ending up back in the hands of smugglers. Some of those who disappeared from the centre later phoned relatives to say they were being held by a smuggler in Ban Walid who was demanding a ransom of several thousand dollars. UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxely said the agency was aware that a number of people taken to Souq al Khamis were unaccounted for and that it was concerned about their safety.

Saudi teen’s speedy resettlement to Canada not unique, say immigration officials. Rahaf Mohammed, who recently decided to drop her family name, arrived in Toronto on Saturday just a week after fleeing her family and being detained at Bangkok airport. Her pleas for help on social media earned her international headlines, but according to Canadian immigration officials, the speed of her resettlement to Canada was not unique. Some 200 people are processed under Canada’s Urgent Protection Programme each year, reports the Toronto Star, with about 50 rapidly resettled. At a news conference on Tuesday, Mohammed acknowledged that she was “one of the lucky ones”. Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR’s representative in Canada, said emergency resettlement was “extremely rare”, but that “based on agreed-upon criteria, we refer these cases to the 30 countries that offer resettlement programmes”.

Refugees helped back to work by UK start-ups. The Guardian profiles several social enterprises helping refugees in the UK move from unemployment or underemployment into meaningful work. Hussam Allahham, a surgeon from Damascus, could not practice medicine in his adopted home of Cardiff before passing prohibitively expensive and difficult language tests and requalification exams. He found help through the charity RefuAid, which provides free language courses and interest-free loans for refugees trying to requalify. Breaking Barriers, another organization focused on refugee employment, has helped more than 600 refugees get back into the workplace since 2015, while the Entrepreneurial Refugee Network focuses on helping refugees start their own busineses.


Nagham Nawzat, a Yazidi gynaecologist from Iraq, has dedicated the last four years of her life to helping other Yazidi women recover from their experiences being held captive by ISIS after the militant group invaded Sinjar in 2014. Through the charity she set up, she treats the women for physical injuries sustained during their captivity and helps them deal their trauma.


The fate of more than 1,400 Yazidi women kidnapped by ISIS remains unknown.