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By Kristy Siegfried  | 18 September, 2019


Continued arrivals to Greek islands overwhelming reception facilities. Another 694 people arrived on the shores of Lesvos, Samos and Chios between early Monday and Tuesday afternoon, reports the Greek daily Kathimerini. They joined some 26,800 asylum-seekers and refugees now staying on the Aegean islands. Lesvos has received most of new arrivals, some 2,427 since the beginning of the month, swelling the numbers at the Moria reception centre to well over 10,700, four times its capacity. Meanwhile, the centre on Samos is running at seven times above its capacity, according to UNHCR, which has described conditions on the islands as “dire”. Sophie McCann, an advocacy manager with Médecins Sans Frontières, told The Guardian that the level of human suffering among refugees on Lesvos was “indescribable” and that incidents of self-harm, even among young children, were on the rise. In recent weeks, Greek authorities have stepped up relocations to the mainland, but UNHCR has called for a longer-term strategy to accommodate asylum-seekers and refugees, with support from the EU.

Fresh fighting in Central African Republic forces thousands to flee. Fighting between rival armed groups in the north-eastern city of Birao over the weekend has left 38 people dead, according to MINUSCA, the UN mission in the CAR. The clashes, combined with an earlier outbreak of fighting on 1 September, have forced a total of 13,000 people, mostly women and children, to flee their homes in Birao, said the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in the CAR, Denise Brown, on Tuesday. The two groups behind the clashes were among 14 armed groups that signed a peace deal with the government in February. Fierce clashes between rival groups in recent months have raised concerns about whether the peace accord aimed at ending years of violence in the CAR will hold.


Two dead, 14 missing after shipwreck near Tunisia. AP reports that the boat capsized off the Tunisian coastal city of Sfax. Tunisian authorities rescued nine people and recovered two bodies on Tuesday and were searching for 14 missing passengers. Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, Malta agreed to accept 90 people rescued by the Italian coastguard in its search-and-rescue zone, and the Ocean Viking ship rescued 109 people from two boats off the coast of Libya less than 24 hours after setting sail. Among those rescued were five women and nine children, including a newborn.

Deportations of Syrians from Lebanon leave behind hardship and fear. Following a government decision in May to deport all Syrians who entered Lebanon irregularly after 24 April, more than 2,730 Syrians had been sent back by 28 August. The New Humanitarian spoke to Syrian families who have lost their main breadwinners and others who live in fear of being arrested if they leave their homes. Lebanese officials insist the deportations are lawful, and that people are only sent back to parts of Syria that are safe, but rights groups say that some of the deportees have been arrested upon their return. UNHCR spokesperson Lisa Abou Khaled told TNH that the agency is working to speed up the renewal of residency permits for refugees to protect them from arrest and is also urging the authorities to allow Syrians to appeal deportation orders.

How some refugees summon joy and why they hide it from us. Author and former refugee Dina Nayeri writes for Time magazine about the changes she observed among refugees living at a camp in Greece between the first time she met them in February 2018 and when she returned in March this year. Many of the same families remained and, she writes, “despair was everywhere”. They were less willing to share moments of joy with her for fear that they would be judged harshly for displaying anything other than grief. Nayeri describes their long wait for the chance to start their lives as “a daily humiliation” that strips them of their identity.


Abeer Khreisha never switches off her phone in case one of the Syrian refugees or vulnerable Jordanians she works with at a community centre in Madaba, Jordan, needs her help. Affectionaly known as “the mother of Syrians”, she has been volunteering tirelessly to help Syrian refugees since 2012. Today, she was chosen as the regional winner for the Middle East and North Africa of UNHCR’s 2019 Nansen Refugee Award. Winners were also announced for Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The overall winner of the award will be revealed on 2 October.


The top three nationalities of the 26,800 refugees and asylum-seekers now on the Aegean islands are Afghan (39 per cent), Syrian (14 per cent) and Congolese (10 per cent).