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By Kristy Siegfried | 20 January, 2020


“Humanitarian nightmare” in Libya must be averted, says UN chief. Speaking at a high-level summit on Libya in Berlin on Sunday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the worsening conflict was already taking a toll on civilians, with 220 schools in the capital, Tripoli, closed and migrants and refugees trapped in detention centres near the fighting. A full-blown civil war, he added, could lead to a “humanitarian nightmare” and risk destabilizing the entire region. More than 150,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since fighting broke out in and around Tripoli in April. World leaders from 11 countries who attended the summit agreed not to interfere in the conflict and to respect a UN arms embargo. Although Libya’s rival leaders did not meet face-to-face, German chancellor Angela Merkel described the summit as “a success” and added that participants had committed to push the warring parties to reach a ceasefire.

Hondurans gather at Guatemala-Mexico border. Hundreds of mainly Honduran migrants and asylum-seekers gathered on the Guatemala-Mexico border on Sunday, aiming to cross into Mexico as a group early on Monday, according to Reuters. The Guatemalan Migration Institute estimates that 4,000 people have entered Guatemala from Honduras since Wednesday. Small groups of mainly women and children were allowed to cross a bridge from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, to Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, over the weekend after Mexican authorities repelled an attempt by some among the group to force their way through the border gates. Mexican authorities have said that only those with proper documentation seeking asylum or work permits would be allowed to enter. UNHCR said its staff were at the border identifying people with protection needs and informing them about their right to seek asylum.


Thousands flee Niger region hit by growing insecurity. Nearly 7,000 people have fled a region in western Niger where Islamic extremist fighters killed 89 soldiers earlier this month, according to UNHCR. Following the 9 January attack on an army base in the town of Chinagodar, near the Malian border, thousands of civilians were forced to leave their homes with little more than the clothes on their back. UNHCR said it had received accounts of civilians being targeted, kidnapped or killed, and their properties looted. Some 5,000 people fled to the nearby towns of Banibangou and Ouallam, which are already hosting thousands of Malian refugees, while around 1,000 people crossed into Mali at the border town of Anderaboukane, where they are receiving help from local people. UNHCR said insecurity in the area was hampering efforts to reach those affected with urgently needed food, water and shelter.

Despite ceasefire, clashes continue in Syria’s Idlib. Fighting continued on Sunday in the north-western province of Idlib, despite a ceasefire brokered last week by Russia and Turkey. Voice of America reports that clashes took place in the south-eastern part of the province as opposition fighters tried to regain control of several towns and villages recently recaptured by Syrian government forces. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday condemned the continued killing and displacement of civilians in Idlib following the announcement of a ceasefire on 12 January. The UN Human Rights Office has documented more than 1,500 civilian deaths, nearly half of them women and children, since the escalation of hostilities in Idlib began in late April.

Italian court confirms NGO rescue ship captain’s arrest not warranted. Italy’s highest court on Friday confirmed that Carola Rackete, the German captain of an NGO rescue ship, should not have been arrested for entering a Sicilian port without authorization. Rackete docked at Lampedusa following a two-week stand-off at sea after she and her crew rescued 53 people off the coast of Libya last June. She was arrested, but released two days later when a judge ruled she had acted “out of necessity”. Italy’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Agrigento public attorney to overturn the court order to release her. “This is an important verdict for all sea rescue activists,” Rackete tweeted. “No one should be prosecuted for aiding people in need.”

People at risk from climate crisis can’t be returned home, finds landmark UN rights ruling. A judgement by the UN Human Rights Committee has found that it is unlawful for governments to return people to countries where their lives might be threatened by climate change. The Guardian reports that the ruling opens the door to future protection claims from people whose lives and well-being are under threat from a warming climate. The judgement relates to the case of a man from the Pacific nation of Kiribati who applied for protection in New Zealand in 2013, claiming that his and his family’s lives were at risk from risking sea levels. New Zealand courts rejected his claim, a decision the UN human rights committee upheld, but in its ruling the committee outlined the responsibilities of receiving states under international human rights law.


Former Somali refugee Fatima Dirie is breathing new life into a volunteer programme in Salt Lake City, in the US state of Utah, that links local people with newly resettled refugees. “Our goal is to make sure that every refugee is connected to an American friend, and that they don’t feel isolated, they’re a part of the community,” she explains.


The conflict in Libya has left almost 200,000 children out of school and made 60,000 refugee and migrant children living in urban areas extremely vulnerable.