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By Kristy Siegfried | 2 December, 2019


UN chief warns of “point of no return” on climate change. As political leaders meet in Madrid today for two weeks of climate talks at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25), UN Secretary-General António Guterres said “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon” and added that the world’s efforts to stop climate change had so far been “utterly inadequate”. Guterres cited mounting scientific evidence for the impact that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are already having on the planet. Meanwhile, Oxfam released a report noting that climate-fuelled disasters such as floods, cyclones and wildfires were the number-one driver of internal displacement over the last decade, forcing more than 20 million people a year from their homes. Asia is the continent most affected, said Oxfam, while Small Island Developing States make up seven of the 10 countries where people face the highest risk of being displaced by extreme weather events. In another report released today, Save the Children said the climate crisis was contributing to at least 33 million people in East and Southern Africa facing emergency levels of food insecurity.

Protests in Colombia spark backlash against Venezuelans. NGOs and researchers in Colombia report that rumours blaming Venezuelan refugees and migrants for isolated looting and vandalism connected to protests have caused a sharp rise in xenophobia over the last 10 days. When violence erupted in Bogota last week during a nationwide strike and authorities imposed a citywide curfew, posts on social media and messaging applications – many mentioning Venezuelans – stoked panic among residents, according to Reuters. In a statement on Sunday, the UN mission in Colombia expressed concern at the increase in discrimination and xenophobia directed towards Venezuelans and said they went against “the spirit of solidarity, welcome and respect” that Colombians have demonstrated. Unlike other countries in the region, Colombia has not imposed stringent immigration requirements on Venezuelans, nearly 1.5 million of whom have settled in the country in recent years.


Libya navy intercepts over 200 people at sea. Libya’s navy said on Saturday it had rescued 205 people from three inflatable boats off the coast of Tripoli on Friday. Responding to distress calls, it found the boats about 90 kilometres offshore. The passengers, who reportedly included 33 women and 14 children, were taken back to Libya, where returned refugees and migrants are often taken to overcrowded detention centres. Separately, French officials confirmed today that they have cancelled plans to provide the Libyan coastguard with six boats after eight NGOs filed a lawsuit against the move. Rights groups praised the decision to cancel the offer.

The West Papuans in limbo in Papua New Guinea. The Guardian reports that up to 7,000 West Papuans remain in “refugee villages” in Papua New Guinea, having crossed the Fly River, which separates PNG from West Papua, 35 years ago to escape an uprising by Melanesian nationalists. Those who remain in the villages refused to move to a refugee settlement established by UNHCR further inland from the border where they would have had access to schools and health care. Now they are anxiously following developments in West Papua, where there are reports of worsening violence amid retaliation against independence activists. A small number of families have reportedly crossed the Fly River in recent months.

Death toll from Lampedusa shipwreck rises to 18. Italy’s coastguard said on Sunday that it had recovered another five bodies from a boat that capsized off the coast of Lampedusa in rough weather on 23 November, bringing the incident’s overall death toll to 18. The coastguard rescued 147 people following the shipwreck. The boat was believed to be carrying some 170 people who departed from Libya during a respite in bad weather. Prosecutors in the Sicilian town of Agrigento are investigating the accident.

Taking on traffickers at the world’s largest refugee settlement. So far this year, UNHCR and its partners have intervened in more than 170 cases of missing persons, abductions and kidnappings in the refugee settlements in south-east Bangladesh, which are home to around 900,000 Rohingya refugees. The real number of trafficking cases is likely far higher, with many cases going unreported and victims ending up in forced labour or being trafficked for sex. In those cases that are reported, UNHCR works with partner organizations to inform the police, coordinate rescue efforts and provide psychosocial support to families and victims. In the case of seven-year-old Mohamed, who was snatched from Kutupalong settlement, the efforts paid off and he was found and returned to his mother.


All of the teachers at Abraço Cultural school in São Paulo have fled war and persecution and are now earning an income by sharing their language and culture with Brazilians. In the five years since it opened, the school has employed 55 refugees and vulnerable migrants, including Syrians, Congolese, Haitians and Venezuelans. “These aren’t just people that need help. They have a lot to offer. It’s a rich exchange,” school director Mariângela Garbelini told the BBC.


Over 1 million people in seven countries in East and Southern Africa were displaced by climate-related shocks in the first six months of 2019.