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By Kristy Siegfried  | 21 August, 2019


Turkey extends deadline for unregistered Syrians to leave Istanbul. On the day a deadline was due to expire for Syrian refugees in Istanbul to return to the provinces where they were registered, Turkey’s interior ministry announced they will now have until 30 October to leave the city. Syrian refugees told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that they had been caught unprepared by the 20 August deadline, which was announced late last month, but that many had already left, shutting down their businesses in some cases. Families with children registered in Istanbul schools and those with official jobs are reportedly exempted from the order to relocate. Authorities in Istanbul have detained several thousand unregistered migrants. While rights groups allege that some Syrians among those arrested have been deported, Turkey has denied carrying out forced returns to Syria and said that unregistered Syrians are transferred to temporary centres for registration. The New Humanitarian reports that unregistered Syrians who remain in Istanbul are fearful of arrest and are living in hiding.

Deadly air and drone strikes displace thousands in southern Libyan town. Escalating violence in the small oasis town of Murzuq in southwestern Libya in recent days has left at least 90 people dead and thousands of “terrified” civilians displaced, the UN said on Tuesday. OCHA, the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, reported that airstrikes by planes and drones, indiscriminate rocket attacks and shelling, as well as ground fighting, had affected a “civilian area”, and that children were among the casualties. UNHCR said at least 9,700 people had fled the clashes in Murzuq since early August and that many were staying in shelters or with relatives. OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke told VOA that that aid agencies are struggling to reach those still trapped in the town who desperately need medical supplies, food and water.


Open Arms passengers disembark on Lampedusa. Eighty-three people who had been stranded for 19 days on the NGO ship that rescued them were allowed to dock on the Italian island of Lampedusa late on Tuesday night. The situation on board the Open Arms ship had reportedly been deteriorating, with passengers sleeping crammed together on deck, sharing just two toilets. More than a dozen desperate passengers had jumped overboard on Tuesday in attempts to swim the nearly five kilometres to shore. After inspecting the ship with a team of doctors, the chief prosecutor of Agrigento in Sicily ordered that the rescued passengers be immediately evacuated, and the vessel seized.

Increase in arrivals to Greek islands straining facilities. Arrivals of asylum-seekers and migrants to Greece’s Aegean islands reached more than 5,000 last month, according to government figures, the highest monthly figure so far this year. With nearly 2,000 more people arriving by boat from Turkey last week compared to 530 who departed for the mainland, the total number of people staying at island facilities has now reached 22,700. Greek daily Kathimerini reports that reception and identification centres are stretched far beyond their capacity on the islands of Lesvos and Samos in particular, but also on Kos, Chios and Leros.

US seeks “safe third country” deal with Panama. The Washington Post reports that the US administration is trying to reach a deal with the Panama government that would allow it to send asylum-seekers from Africa, Asia and elsewhere to Panama if those individuals had passed through the country en route to the United States. The “safe third country” accord would primarily apply to the relatively small but growing numbers of “extracontinental” asylum-seekers who fly into Brazil or Ecuador before heading north into Panama via the Darien Gap region that borders with Colombia. Acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan will travel to Panama City today to meet with the country’s newly-elected president Laurentino Cortizo to discuss “regional cooperation to confront irregular migration”.

A journey through shattered Syria. Following an eight-day visit to Syria, three New York Times journalists report that eight years of civil war have drained the country of much of its middle class and scattered its young men. While fighting continues in north-western Idlib province, other parts of the country are making an uneven recovery from the long conflict. A new mall in the capital, Damascus, stands in sharp contrast to the scenes of rubble and wreckage in Douma and eastern Aleppo. While some of the displaced are returning home, others are still fleeing and with so many young men gone, the task of rebuilding ruined homes and businesses has fallen to the old, the very young and, especially, the women.


UNHCR staffer Yumiko Takashima writes about her typical day living and working in the Syrian city of Aleppo – an area still affected by the ongoing conflict. Travelling to work in an armoured vehicle and living in a hotel where she often works late into the night, Yumiko describes her job as a vocation and something she feels lucky to be doing, despite the hardships. “Many of us want to do something when we see someone suffering, as a fellow human being,” she writes. “We’re lucky to be able to do it here in Aleppo.”


Nearly 22,000 asylum-seekers and migrants have arrived by sea to Greece so far this year while another 7,000 have arrived via Greece’s northern land border with Turkey.