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By Kristy Siegfried | 17 July, 2020

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

UN raises COVID-19 appeal to record $10.3 billion. Warning that the cost of inaction could be the loss of countless lives and decades of development, the UN released an updated US$10.3 billion appeal on Thursday to fight the coronavirus in low-income and fragile countries. The UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, warned that unless wealthier nations act now, the pandemic and an associated global recession could push 265 million people to starvation by the end of the year. The UN initially appealed for $2 billion in late March to help about 40 countries cope with COVID-19 but increased that request to $6.7 billion in May as the virus continued to spread. So far, $1.7 billion has been raised. UNHCR’s portion of the appeal remains at $745 million – the same amount requested in May. The revised appeal, which brings together funding requests from 10 UN agencies, several NGOs and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, aims to help 250 million people in 63 countries primarily in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Deadly attack in camp for displaced people in Sudan’s North Darfur. The provincial government in North Darfur on Monday declared a state of emergency following worsening violence in the province, including an attack by unidentified armed men on a camp for internally displaced people that left at least nine people dead. The incident came a few days after a group of IDPs staged a sit-in protest denouncing the increase in attacks by armed groups that were preventing them from accessing their land for farming. The provincial government said it would deploy more troops to the area to restore security and stability. The joint UN and African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) condemned the violence and said it was “regrettable” the incident had taken place while Sudan’s transitional government and armed groups were close to concluding negotiations aimed at bringing peace and stability to the Darfur region.

New statelessness law comes into effect in Ukraine. The law, signed by the President of Ukraine this week, formally establishes a statelessness determination procedure. It is expected to benefit an estimated 35,000 people who are either stateless or whose nationality is undetermined. They include many people living in Ukraine since the dissolution of the former Soviet Union who have been unable to acquire Ukrainian citizenship because they lacked documentation and have spent decades in legal limbo. The new procedure will allow them to obtain temporary residency permits so they can access work, education and health services, and will eventually pave the way for their naturalization as Ukrainian citizens. UNHCR welcomed the new law, which it has been advocating for since Ukraine acceded to the two UN statelessness treaties in 2013, and said it stood ready to support the authorities in its implementation.


ONE QUESTION FOR…

Albert Pirchak, a project manager with the International Foundation of Health and Environment Protection (NEEKA), a UNHCR partner in western Ukraine

What does Ukraine’s new statelessness determination procedure mean for the people you work with?

“It is a great joy that the efforts of so many people have been heard at the political level. The statelessness determination procedure means that a person who lived all his/her life without documents will now have an official status – will finally be recognized by his/her state. It means a lot… People with undetermined status now will have a chance to work, study, travel and develop themselves.

“For people who have diseases and physical disabilities it is an opportunity to receive social services, medical care and cash support from the state. Young people who are just at the beginning of their lives will be able to get married and provide their children with a secure and stable future.”


STORIES TO WATCH

Thousands of Venezuelans attempting to return home. CNN reports that as the coronavirus pandemic shutters economies across Latin America, many Venezuelans who left their country in recent years now feel they have no choice but to return home. According to Venezuelan authorities, at least 56,000 Venezuelans returned between March and mid-June – still only a fraction of the nearly 5 million who have left since 2016, but a challenge for authorities on both sides of the Colombia-Venezuela border. The Venezuelan government has limited the number allowed to enter the country to approximately 1,000 per week, meaning long waits at makeshift camps near the border in Cúcuta. Some have travelled, often on foot, from as far away as Peru after losing jobs and being unable to pay rent.

Migrants and refugees vanish in secret Libyan detention centres. The Wall Street Journal reports that Libya has seen an increase in kidnappings and torture of migrants by militia groups, who extort ransom payments from desperate family members. According to aid groups operating in the country, off-the-grid detention centres have mushroomed in the wake of the closure of many official detention facilities in recent months. More than 3,000 people intercepted at sea by the Libyan coast guard have either disappeared into unofficial facilities or are unaccounted for, according to IOM. Others are rounded up on land and taken to warehouses or repurposed factories where they can suffer worse abuses than those that have been documented in government detention centres.

Refugees more likely to lose jobs due to pandemic, study finds. Refugees living in low- and middle-income countries are 60 per cent more likely than host populations to lose jobs or income due to the coronavirus pandemic, US development groups said on Wednesday. The findings are based on data from eight countries – Colombia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Peru, Turkey and Uganda. According to the Center for Global Development, refugees have been disproportionately affected by the crisis because they tend to work in hard-hit sectors such as shops, cafes and factories. For those who have lost their jobs, relief may be hard to come by as refugees are often excluded from social safety nets. The authors of the study are calling on host countries and donors to ensure that refugees are included in national COVID-19 response plans and social protection systems.


GET INSPIRED

For the past five years, BBC journalist Caroline Hawley has been visiting young Syrian refugee Rouaa in Lebanon, where she and her family have lived in precarious conditions since fleeing the war. Now she follows Rouaa as she parts from her older sister and best friend and resettles in the United Kingdom with the rest of her family.


DID YOU KNOW?

In Lebanon, 60 per cent of Syrian refugees surveyed between April and June had been laid off due to the coronavirus crisis, compared to 39 per cent of Lebanese citizens.