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By Kristy Siegfried  | 19 September, 2019


“Precarious” progress on South Sudan’s peace process. One year on from the signing of an agreement to end South Sudan’s six years of conflict, and after a missed deadline to form a unity government by May, the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, David Shearer, told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that peace was beginning to pay dividends for South Sudan’s citizens. Last week, President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar recommitted to forming a unity government by November. Shearer said a ceasefire continued to hold in most parts of the country, forced displacement had decreased and food security had slightly improved as returnees planted crops. He went on to outline several key areas needing more progress, including a lack of health and education services in return areas and concerns by displaced people about the fragility of the peace process. Since the collapse of an earlier peace deal in 2016, more than a million people are thought to have fled the country, according to Al Jazeera, which used a mobile phone survey, satellite imagery and public data to confirm those reports and shed light on displaced people’s plans to return. Among those surveyed, more than half said they would return home were the fighting to stop.

Honduran mother and son drown trying to cross Rio Grande to US. The bodies of Idalia Herrera Hernandez and her 21-month-old son were found last week near the Rio Grande River in south-western Texas, following an “intense search” by US Customs and Border Protection, said a spokesperson for the agency on Wednesday. The pair had recently entered the US and made a request for asylum but were sent to Matamoros, Mexico, to wait for an immigration court hearing. Hernandez was reportedly anxious to reunite with her husband and two daughters, who live in the US. The drowning of Herrera and her son comes almost three months after Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter were also swept away by dangerous currents along the Rio Grande.


Italy, France call for EU system to distribute asylum-seekers rescued at sea. French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called on Wednesday for the European Union to introduce a new, automatic system for Member States to share responsibility for refugees and migrants rescued at sea. Italy has long complained that it has been left alone to deal with sea arrivals. Following talks between the two leaders in Rome, Macron said EU asylum policy needed more humanity, solidarity and efficiency. The issue is to be taken up at an EU meeting in Malta on Monday, ahead of a European Council meeting in October in Luxembourg.

Hope and despair in a Mexican shelter. Two AP reporters spent 10 days living with 130 or so asylum-seekers in the “cobbled together community” of El Buen Pastor shelter in the Mexican border city of Juarez. The shelter provides each new arrival with a mattress, two meals a day and some safety during the often months-long wait for an asylum interview at the nearby US border. Its current residents include a body builder from Uganda, a single mother from El Salvador and her 11-year-old twins, and a Congolese family. Recent changes to US asylum rules and a series of court rulings have created confusion about which of them are eligible to apply for asylum and how long they will have to wait for an interview.

Asylum requests down in developed countries. Applications for asylum in the 36 countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) fell to 1.09 million last year, down 34 per cent compared to the record high of 1.65 million applications registered in both 2015 and 2016. The largest number of asylum-seekers came from Afghanistan, followed by Syria, Iraq and Venezuela. The number of registered refugees also fell by 28 per cent. According to the report, refugees represented 14 per cent of permanent migrants to OECD countries last year. The United States was the top destination for asylum-seekers, followed by Germany and Turkey.

The Syrian children who saved a German village. The New York Times reports from the remote eastern German village of Golzow, where the local primary school was in danger of closing in 2015, before the local mayor invited several Syrian refugee families to settle there. Villagers were deeply sceptical at first, but most now agree that Golzow has changed for the better. Not only has the school been saved, but empty apartments have new life in them, and friendships have formed as local residents discovered what they had in common with their new Syrian neighbours. Golzow’s experience suggests that the integration of hundreds of thousands of refugees who arrived in Germany in 2015 is quietly working, one village at a time.


Asked to explain who a refugee is, these children from Quito, Ecuador, had some remarkably astute responses. “A normal person, like everyone,” said Simon. “Only that they have fled their country because of war.”


Since South Sudan’s peace agreement was signed last September, 594,000 displaced people have returned home.