By Kristy Siegfried | 16 October, 2019
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Civilian casualties grow as fighting continues in northeast Syria. UN agencies on Tuesday reported civilian deaths on both sides of the border between northeast Syria and Turkey. While the exact death toll is unclear, UNICEF confirmed the deaths of at least four children in Syria and seven in Turkey. Another incident on Sunday resulted in the deaths of four civilians, including two journalists, according the UN human rights office, which said it had also received reports of summary executions being carried out by forces linked to the Turkish military. Inside Turkey, authorities report that 18 civilians have been killed since the conflict escalated last week. Meanwhile, ABC News reports that people displaced by the fighting are struggling to find food and water after arriving in the town of Al-Hassekeh. The town’s main water plant was damaged by recent shelling and several international aid agencies have pulled their international staff out of the region in recent days, including Médecins Sans Frontières and Mercy Corps. UNHCR said on Tuesday that it was working with other UN agencies to distribute aid to displaced families and is appealing for an additional US$31.5 million in funding to respond to the crisis.
Italy allows rescue ship to disembark 176 passengers. The NGO rescue ship, the Ocean Viking, docked in the southern Italian city of Taranto this morning after Italian authorities gave permission for the ship’s 176 passengers to disembark there. They had been on board the vessel since Sunday when the crew rescued them from two boats off the Libyan coast. The ship had been waiting in international waters off Lampedusa to be assigned a safe port. Meanwhile, a group of 172 people travelling in one large boat was disembarked in Lampedusa on Tuesday night after being rescued from Maltese waters by the Italian Coast Guard. Another group of 77 people were rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta after reportedly being adrift in the Mediterranean since Sunday.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
Burkina Faso’s fast-moving emergency. The New York Times reports on the humanitarian crisis in Burkina Faso where a wave of violent attacks and suspected terrorist activity has uprooted nearly half a million people and engulfed about one-third of the country’s territory in fighting. The violence has been moving south, from the border with Mali, towards the city of Kaya northeast of the capital. UNHCR reported on Friday that most displaced people are trying to find safety in already impoverished host communities. Ioli Kimyaci, UNHCR’s head in Burkina Faso, told the Times the absorption capacity of such communities had reached its limit and the agency is looking to open new sites to relieve already overcrowd ones in the north, around the city of Dori.
Restrictions on Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh cause frustration and anxiety. Al Jazeera reports from a Rohingya refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar where recent restrictions on mobile phone and internet use, plans to erect fencing around settlements, and expulsions of refugee children from local schools are causing an increased sense of frustration and anxiety. No longer able to communicate with friends and family, some refugees reported feeling isolated and lonely, while an increased security presence in the settlements is also making them nervous.
Mexico under pressure as asylum applications soar. The BBC reports from a shelter in Mexico City where asylum-seekers who have decided to abandon efforts to reach the United States are being provided with basic training to help them find work in Mexico. The shelter, called Cafemin, is run by Catholic nuns with support from UNHCR. Outside the walls of the shelter, the BBC reports that residents often struggle to integrate in Mexico where asylum applications have soared from around 2,100 in 2014 to over 48,000 in the first eight months of this year. The pressure on the country’s asylum agency (COMAR) is compounded by a chronic lack of funding. During a visit to Mexico earlier this month, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi urged the Mexican government to increase COMAR’s budget.
How conflict and climate change combine to drive displacement. UNHCR reports on the complex interplay between conflict, climate, poverty and persecution driving displacement in many parts of the world. Rising sea levels, shrinking lakes and longer and harsher droughts can create new populations of displaced people and increase the challenges facing existing ones. While people displaced across borders solely by the effects of climate-change related disasters do not generally qualify for refugee status, when climate-related factors are interlinked with conflict or persecution, the 1951 Refugee Convention is likely to apply. With more people expected to be displaced by environmental factors in the coming years, UNHCR is working with policy-makers to adapt legal frameworks. The agency is also working with refugees to improve their resilience in the face of climate-related challenges.
At this nail salon in Tokyo, Japan, all of the nail artists are refugees.
DID YOU KNOW?
Of 80,800 refugees and migrants who arrived to Europe between January and September this year, only 7,600 arrived via the Central Mediterranean route to Italy.