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By Kristy Siegfried | 19 June, 2019


Worldwide displacement tops 70 million. Data from UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, released today, shows that a record 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced by the end of 2018 – double the number 20 years ago. UNHCR said the figure was conservative as it only partly reflects the 4 million Venezuelans who have left their country. Refugees make up nearly 26 million of the figure, while 3.5 million are asylum-seekers. The other 41.3 million are internally displaced people. The rate of new displacement continues to exceed the rate at which solutions are being found for displaced people. While 13.6 million people were newly displaced in 2018, fewer than 3 million were able to return home and only 92,400 refugees were resettled. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told a news briefing that most refugees flee to neighbouring countries, most of which are poor or middle-income. “That’s where the crisis is, that’s where we need to focus,” he said, adding that the numbers arriving in Europe were manageable and that the only crisis there was one of solidarity.

“Humanitarian disaster unfolding before our eyes” in Syria’s Idlib, says UN relief chief. Addressing the Security Council on Tuesday, Mark Lowcock painted a grim picture of the impacts of continued violence in Syria’s north-western Idlib province. He said the last six weeks of hostilities had forced an estimated 330,000 people to flee northwards towards the border with Turkey. Hospitals, schools and markets have been hit, crops burned and more than 230 civilians killed, including 81 children. Another 19 people were killed by air strikes and artillery on Monday, said Lowcock, who noted that displacement camps were overcrowded, forcing many people to stay in the open. In towns and villages close to the fighting, “many are crowding into basements” while more than 250,000 children are now out of school. Earlier on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed to Russia and Turkey “to stabilize the situation without delay”. He added that “even in the fight against terrorism there needs to be full compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.”


Rights watchdog calls on EU to take responsibility for rescue at sea. The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner said on Tuesday that Member States’ focus on preventing refugees and migrants from reaching European shores was violating international law and having “tragic consequences”. Dunja Mijatović urged states to step up rescues at sea, including by cooperating with NGOs, and to ensure disembarkations only happen “in safe places and without unnecessary delays”. Reuters reports that the EU’s new five-year action plan, which national leaders are expected to endorse at a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, restates a commitment to strengthening control of the bloc’s external borders and partnering with transit and origin countries.

Rise in deaths of Venezuelans and Central Americans on the move. At least 380 refugees and migrants have died on their journeys through the Americas so far this year, the International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday – 50 per cent more than the 241 recorded as of mid-June last year. In the past two months alone, more than 80 Venezuelans have died or disappeared in the Caribbean while trying to reach the islands of Trinidad and Tobago and Curaçao. Their trips were organized by smugglers who heavily overloaded boats that then capsized. UNHCR on Tuesday called for more coordinated search-and-rescue efforts in the Caribbean to prevent further loss of life. IOM said that another 23 people had died at the US-Mexico border since 30 May, while dozens of other deaths were under investigation in Mexico and in Panama’s Darien Gap.

Australia to accept more refugees from South America. Australian immigration officials have been told to open the door to more refugees from South America in a formal directive that is likely to change the make-up of Australia’s annual humanitarian intake of 18,750 refugees, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. While no public target has been set on the intake from South America, it is expected to amount to several hundred people and could see Venezuela join the list of top 10 countries of origin for humanitarian visas in the year ahead. The justification for the new direction is the scale of the current exodus from Venezuela. It marks a significant departure from decades in which almost all of Australia’s humanitarian intake of refugees have come from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

German bureaucracy keeping refugees out of job market, report finds. A new study by the Berlin Institute has found that although many refugees in Germany find work, most are in low-paying temporary jobs and not fully integrated into the national labour market. The Institute found that 95,000 refugees from eight main countries of origin had found jobs between February 2018 and January 2019, but that two thirds were in service industry or temporary jobs. The pressure to earn money as quickly as possible means that most refugees take the first job they can find rather than embarking on the two years of intensive language classes necessary to qualify for vocational training programmes. The report’s authors urged German lawmakers to create more practical labour laws and to do more to recognize the qualifications that some refugees bring with them.


Three years ago, after Somali refugee Mustafa Nuur wrote an op-ed for a local newspaper in the US, where he had resettled, he started receiving harassing messages from a local man. Rather than trade insults on social media, he invited the man for coffee and a friendship emerged. The encounter gave Mustafa the idea for Bridge, a social enterprise platform that organizes cross-cultural experiences between locals and refugees. “When you hear a refugee’s story, it’s going to be very difficult to hate them,” Mustafa says.


An average of 37,000 people were forced to flee their homes every day in 2018.