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By Kristy Siegfried | 16 January, 2020


US judge blocks executive order on refugee resettlement. A US federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked an executive order announced by President Donald Trump in September that allowed state and local authorities to opt out of accepting refugees for resettlement. The preliminary injunction follows a legal challenge brought by three resettlement agencies which argued that the presidential order conflicts with the Refugee Act and would disrupt the way they work. So far, 42 governors and 100 local governments have consented to accept refugees. Last week, Governor Gregg Abbott of Texas became the first governor to veto resettlement in his state. Melanie Nezer from HIAS, one of the non-profit groups that resettles refugees and is a plaintiff in the case, told Reuters that for now, “refugee resettlement will continue as before, including in Texas and the small number of states and counties that have not provided consent”.

Closure of Syria crossings creates new burden for local NGOs. Devex reports that the recent Security Council decision to re-authorize only two out of four existing border crossings into Syria for UN aid deliveries puts new pressure on local aid organizations to meet the needs of millions of civilians. The Al Yarubiyah crossing between Syria and Iraq was used by the World Health Organization to deliver health-care services and supplies to 1.4 million people in Syria’s north-east. A spokesperson with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told VOA News the shut-down of Al Yarubiyah was likely to lead to hundreds of preventable deaths. A “heavy burden” will fall to local organizations that lack the resources to step in, according to Sahar Atrache, a senior advocate at Refugees International. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that at least 21 people were killed in north-western Idlib province on Wednesday when several towns, including Ariha and Idlib City, came under air attack days after a short-lived ceasefire that came into effect on Sunday. New figures released by the UN on Wednesday estimate that nearly 350,000 people have been forced to flee the violence in Idlib since 1 December.


Fresh clashes in Central African Republic drive hundreds to seek shelter at UN base. Fighting last Thursday between government forces and a militia group in the Central African Republic’s south-east has driven some 400 people to seek shelter and protection at a UN base. Dozens of homes were burned at a site for internally displaced people in the town of Alindao, leaving about 2,000 people in urgent need of shelter and food, according to the UN’s humanitarian affairs coordination office. The clashes are the latest test of a peace agreement signed between the government and several armed groups in February last year that has reduced fighting, but not ended it.

Catastrophic conditions greet refugees arriving on Lesvos. The Guardian reports from the Greek island of Lesvos, where refugee agencies warn that an increase in arrivals is adding pressure to worsening conditions in and around Moria reception facility, where some 19,000 people are now staying. With more boats arriving every day, many of them carrying people fleeing violence in Afghanistan and Syria, thousands of people are now living in dire conditions in the olive groves surrounding Moria. New arrivals often lack shelter from the winter weather and wait days to access medical care. UNHCR spokesperson Theodoros Alexellis said local people do not want the camp expanded, rather “they want to see an urgent commitment from other European countries to help”.

Hundreds of Hondurans enter Guatemala. AP reports that hundreds of Hondurans who set out together from a bus terminal in the northern Honduras city of San Pedro Sula early Wednesday quickly dispersed as they hitched rides and aimed for different border crossings. Those with documents were allowed to cross into Guatemala, but the country’s new president, Alejandro Giammattei, warned that those without identification would be returned to Honduras. Mexico said it would welcome those seeking asylum or entering legally in search of work, but said it would not grant transit visas.

Three abducted aid workers released by armed group in Nigeria. The aid workers were among several people released on Wednesday by militants who had held them hostage since abducting them from a vehicle travelling towards the city of Maiduguri on 22 December. Edward Kallon, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said the aid workers were providing life-saving support to vulnerable people in north-eastern Borno State and should never have been a target. He added that that he was extremely worried about the “increasingly insecure environment” for humanitarians working in north-east Nigeria, where more than 1.8 million people are internally displaced across the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.


Film-maker Hassan Fazili and his wife and daughters fled Afghanistan in 2015 after a documentary he had made about the Taliban put his life at risk. Using smartphones, Fazili filmed his family’s gruelling multi-year journey to seek refuge in Europe. The result is the film Midnight Traveller, which opens in the UK on Friday. The Guardian describes it as a “powerful, personal piece of work”.


Of four million people living in north-west Syria, 2.8 million are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance.